Professional Guidelines

An agency of the Supreme Court of Virginia

The Virginia State Bar

Professional Guidelines

Rule 5.5

Unauthorized Practice Of Law; Multijurisdictional Practice of Law

  • (a) A lawyer, law firm or professional corporation shall not employ in any capacity a lawyer whose license has been suspended or revoked for professional misconduct, during such period of suspension or revocation, if the disciplined lawyer was associated with such lawyer, law firm, or professional corporation at any time on or after the date of the acts which resulted in suspension or revocation.
  • (b) A lawyer, law firm or professional corporation employing a lawyer as a consultant, law clerk, or legal assistant when that lawyer’s license is suspended or revoked for professional misconduct shall not represent any client represented by the disciplined lawyer or by any lawyer with whom the disciplined lawyer practiced on or after the date of the acts which resulted in suspension or revocation.
  • (c) A lawyer shall not practice law in a jurisdiction in violation of the regulation of the legal profession in that jurisdiction, or assist another in doing so.
  • (d) Foreign Lawyers:
    • (1) "Foreign Lawyer" is a person authorized to practice law by the duly constituted and authorized governmental body of any State or Territory of the United States or the District of Columbia, or a foreign nation, but is neither licensed by the Supreme Court of Virginia or authorized under its rules to practice law generally in the Commonwealth of Virginia, nor disbarred or suspended from practice in any jurisdiction.
    • (2) A Foreign Lawyer shall not, except as authorized by these Rules or other law:
      • (i) establish an office or other systematic and continuous presence in Virginia for the practice of law, which may occur even if the Foreign Lawyer is not physically present in Virginia; or
      • (ii) hold out to the public or otherwise represent that the Foreign Lawyer is admitted to practice law in Virginia.
    • (3) A Foreign Lawyer shall inform the client and interested third parties in writing:
      • (i) that the lawyer is not admitted to practice law in Virginia;
      • (ii) the jurisdiction(s) in which the lawyer is licensed to practice; and
      • (iii) the lawyer’s office address in the foreign jurisdiction.
    • (4) A Foreign Lawyer may, after informing the client as required in 3(i)-(iii) above, provide legal services on a temporary and occasional basis in Virginia that:
      • (i) are undertaken in association with a lawyer who is admitted to practice without limitation in Virginia or admitted under Part I of Rule 1A:5 of this Court and who actively participates in the matter;
      • (ii) are in or reasonably related to a pending or potential proceeding before a tribunal in Virginia or another jurisdiction, if the Foreign Lawyer, or a person the Foreign Lawyer is assisting, is authorized by law or order to appear in such proceeding or reasonably expects to be so authorized;
      • (iii) are in or reasonably related to a pending or potential arbitration, mediation, or other alternative dispute resolution proceeding in Virginia or another jurisdiction, if the services arise out of or are reasonably related to the Foreign Lawyer’s practice in a jurisdiction in which the Foreign Lawyer is admitted to practice and are not services for which the forum requires pro hac vice admission; or
      • (iv) are not within paragraphs (4)(ii) or (4)(iii) and arise out of or are reasonably related to the representation of a client by the Foreign Lawyer in a jurisdiction in which the Foreign Lawyer is admitted to practice or, subject to the foregoing limitations, are governed primarily by international law.
    • (5) A foreign legal consultant practicing under Rule 1A:7 of this Court and a corporate counsel registrant practicing under Part II of Rule 1A:5 of this Court are not authorized to practice under this rule.

Comment

[1] A lawyer may practice law only in a jurisdiction in which the lawyer is authorized to practice. A lawyer may be admitted to practice law in a jurisdiction on a regular basis or may be authorized by court rule or order or by law to practice for a limited purpose or on a restricted basis. Paragraph (c) applies to unauthorized practice of law by a lawyer, whether through the lawyer’s direct action or by the lawyer assisting another person.

[1a] For purposes of paragraphs (a), (b), and (c) "Lawyer," denotes a person authorized by the Supreme Court of Virginia or its Rules to practice law in the Commonwealth of Virginia including persons admitted to practice in this state pro hac vice.

[2] The definition of the practice of law is established by law and varies from one jurisdiction to another. Whatever the definition, limiting the practice of law to members of the bar protects the public against rendition of legal services by unauthorized persons. Paragraph (c) does not prohibit a lawyer from employing the services of paraprofessionals and delegating functions to them, so long as the lawyer supervises the delegated work and retains responsibility for their work. See Rule 5.3.

[3] Likewise, the definition of the practice of law does not prohibit lawyers from providing professional advice and instruction to nonlawyers whose employment requires knowledge of law — for example, claims adjusters, employees of financial or commercial institutions, social workers, accountants, and persons employed in government agencies.

[4] Other than as authorized by law or this Rule, a Foreign Lawyer violates paragraph (d)(2)(i) if the Foreign Lawyer establishes an office or other systematic and continuous presence in Virginia for the practice of law. Presence may be systematic and continuous even if the Foreign Lawyer is not physically present here. Such "non-physical" presence includes, but is not limited to, the regular interaction with residents of Virginia for delivery of legal services in Virginia through exchange of information over the Internet or other means. Such Foreign Lawyer must not hold out to the public or otherwise represent that the Foreign Lawyer is admitted to practice law in Virginia. See also, Rules 7.1(a) and 7.5(b). Despite the foregoing general prohibition, a Foreign Lawyer may establish an office or other systematic and continuous presence in Virginia if the Foreign Lawyer’s practice is limited to areas which by state or federal law do not require admission to the Virginia State Bar. Examples of lawyers admitted in another United States jurisdiction include those lawyers whose practices are limited to federal tax practice before the IRS and Tax Court, patent law before the Patent and Trademark Office, or immigration law. A Foreign Lawyer admitted to practice in a jurisdiction outside the United States may be authorized to practice under Rule 1A:7 as a foreign legal consultant and may likewise establish an office or other systematic and continued presence in Virginia.

[5] Paragraph (d)(4) identifies circumstances in which a Foreign Lawyer may provide legal services on a temporary basis in Virginia that do not create an unreasonable risk to the interests of their clients, the public, or the courts. The fact that conduct is not so identified does not imply that the conduct is or is not authorized. Except as authorized by this rule or other law, a Foreign Lawyer may not establish an office or other systematic and continuous presence in Virginia without being admitted to practice generally here.

[6] There is no single test to determine whether a Foreign Lawyer’s services are provided on a "temporary basis" in Virginia, and may therefore be permissible under paragraph (d)(4). Services may be "temporary" even though the Foreign Lawyer provides services in Virginia on a recurring basis, or for an extended period of time, as when the Foreign Lawyer is representing a client in a single lengthy negotiation or litigation. "Temporary" refers to the duration of the Foreign lawyer’s presence and provision of services, while "occasional" refers to the frequency with which the Foreign lawyer comes into Virginia to provide legal services.

[7] Paragraph (d)(1) requires that the Foreign Lawyer be authorized to practice in the jurisdiction in which the Foreign Lawyer is admitted and excludes a Foreign Lawyer who, while technically admitted, is not authorized to practice because, for example, the Foreign Lawyer is on inactive status.

[8] Paragraph (d)(4)(i) recognizes that the interests of clients and the public are protected if a Foreign Lawyer associates with a lawyer licensed to practice Virginia. For this paragraph to apply, however, the lawyer admitted to practice in Virginia must actively participate in and share responsibility for the representation of the client.

[9] Foreign Lawyers not admitted to practice generally in this jurisdiction may be authorized by law or order of a tribunal or an administrative agency to appear before the tribunal or agency. Under paragraph (d)(4)(ii), a Foreign Lawyer does not violate this Rule when the Foreign Lawyer appears before a tribunal or agency pursuant to such authority. To the extent that a court rule or other law of Virginia requires a Foreign Lawyer to obtain admission pro hac vice before appearing before a tribunal or administrative agency, this Rule requires the Foreign Lawyer to obtain that authority.

[10] Paragraph (d)(4)(ii) also provides that a Foreign Lawyer rendering services in Virginia on a temporary basis does not violate this Rule when the Foreign Lawyer engages in conduct in anticipation of a proceeding or hearing in a jurisdiction in which the Foreign Lawyer is authorized to practice law or in which the Foreign Lawyer reasonably expects to be admitted pro hac vice. Examples of such conduct include meetings with the client, interviews of potential witnesses, and the review of documents. Similarly, a Foreign Lawyer may engage in conduct temporarily in Virginia in connection with pending litigation in another jurisdiction in which the Foreign Lawyer is or reasonably expects to be authorized to appear, including taking depositions in Virginia.

[11] ABA Model Rule Comment not adopted.

[12] Paragraph (d)(4)(iii) permits a Foreign Lawyer to perform services on a temporary basis in Virginia if those services are in or reasonably related to a pending or potential arbitration, mediation, or other alternative dispute resolution proceeding in this or another jurisdiction, if the services arise out of or are reasonably related to the Foreign Lawyer’s practice in a jurisdiction in which the Foreign Lawyer is admitted to practice. The Foreign Lawyer, however, must obtain admission pro hac vice in the case of a court-annexed arbitration or mediation or otherwise if court rules or law so require.

[13] Paragraph (d)(4)(iv) permits a Foreign Lawyer to provide certain legal services on a temporary basis in Virginia that arise out of or are reasonably related to that lawyer’s practice in a jurisdiction in which the Foreign Lawyer is admitted but are not within paragraphs (d)(4)(ii) or (d)(4)(iii). These services include both legal services and services that nonlawyers may perform but that are considered the practice of law when performed by lawyers.

[14] Paragraphs (d)(4)(ii), (d)(4)(iii), and (d)(4)(iv) require that the services arise out of or be reasonably related to the Foreign Lawyer’s practice in a jurisdiction in which the Foreign Lawyer is admitted to practice. A variety of factors evidence such a relationship. The Foreign Lawyer’s client may have been previously represented by the Foreign Lawyer, or may be resident in or have substantial contacts with the jurisdiction in which the Foreign Lawyer is admitted. The matter, although involving other jurisdictions, may have a significant connection with that jurisdiction. In other cases, significant aspects of the Foreign Lawyer’s work might be conducted in that jurisdiction or a significant aspect of the matter may involve the law of that jurisdiction. The necessary relationship might arise when the client’s activities or the legal issues involve multiple jurisdictions, such as when the officers of a multinational corporation survey potential business sites and seek the services of their Foreign Lawyer in assessing the relative merits of each. In addition, the services may draw on the Foreign Lawyer’s recognized expertise developed through the regular practice of law on behalf of clients in matters involving a particular body of federal, nationally-uniform, foreign, or international law.

[14a] Paragraph (d)(4)(iv) recognizes that a Foreign Lawyer may provide legal services when the services provided are governed by international law or the law of a foreign jurisdiction in which the Foreign Lawyer is admitted to practice.

[15 - 18] ABA Model Rule Comments not adopted.

[19] A Foreign Lawyer who practices law in Virginia pursuant to this Rule is subject to the disciplinary authority of Virginia. See Rule 8.5(a).

[20] ABA Model Rule Comment not adopted.

[21] Paragraph (d)(4) does not authorize communications advertising legal services to prospective clients in Virginia by Foreign Lawyers who are admitted to practice in other jurisdictions. Whether and how Foreign Lawyers may communicate the availability of their services to prospective clients in Virginia is governed by Rules 7.1 to 7.5.

Prior Rule Comparison

Neither former Rule 5.5 nor any other of the Virginia Rules of Professional Conduct provided any criteria for practice in Virginia by a foreign lawyer (non-Virginia or non-U.S.). Such practice was controlled by Part 6, §I (C) of the Rules of the Virginia Supreme Court which defined “non-lawyer” and set out the parameters for temporary practice in Virginia by a “foreign lawyer,” defined only as admitted to practice and in good standing in any state in the U.S. There was no provision for practice by a foreign, non-U.S. lawyer. Enforcement of Part 6, §I (C) fell within the authority of the Virginia State Bar’s Standing Committee on the Unauthorized Practice of Law. Rule 5.5 allows for temporary and occasional practice in Virginia by both non-Virginia and non-U.S. lawyers and places enforcement within the Virginia State Bar’s disciplinary system.

Committee Commentary

The Committee adopted this Rule in light of the recommendation of the American Bar Association (ABA) that the states adopt more specific rules governing multi-jurisdictional practice. This rule adopts language similar to ABA Model Rule 5.5 allowing for circumstances of temporary and occasional practice by lawyers licensed in other U.S. jurisdictions, but expands such practice to include lawyers licensed in non-U.S. jurisdictions. Paragraphs (a) and (b) are identical to paragraphs (b) and (c) in former Virginia Rule 5.5.

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The amendments effective March 1, 2009, rewrote the Rule and Commentary thereto.

The amendments effective December 13, 2013, in Comment [5], deleted the “s” in “Paragraphs”, “(i), (ii) and (iii)” and changed “identify” to “identifies”; and in Comment [13], deleted the last sentence.

Updated: December 16, 2013