Professional Guidelines

An agency of the Supreme Court of Virginia

The Virginia State Bar

Professional Guidelines

Rule 8.1

Bar Admission And Disciplinary Matters

An applicant for admission to the bar, or a lawyer already admitted to the bar, in connection with a bar admission application, any certification required to be filed as a condition of maintaining or renewing a license to practice law, or in connection with a disciplinary matter, shall not:

  • (a) knowingly make a false statement of material fact;
  • (b) fail to disclose a fact necessary to correct a misapprehension known by the person to have arisen in the matter;
  • (c) fail to respond to a lawful demand for information from an admissions or disciplinary authority, except that this Rule does not require disclosure of information otherwise protected by Rule 1.6; or
  • (d) obstruct a lawful investigation by an admissions or disciplinary authority.


[1] The duty imposed by this Rule extends to persons seeking admission to the bar as well as to lawyers. Hence, if a person makes a materially false statement in connection with an application for admission or a certification necessary for license renewal, it may be the basis for disciplinary action once that person has been admitted to the Bar. The duty imposed by this Rule applies to a lawyer's own admission or discipline as well as that of others. Thus, it is a separate professional offense for a lawyer to knowingly make a misrepresentation or omission in connection with a disciplinary investigation of the lawyer's own conduct. This Rule also requires affirmative clarification of any material misstatement, of which the person involved becomes aware, that could lead to a misunderstanding on the part of the admissions or disciplinary authority.

[2] This Rule is subject to the provisions of the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution, corresponding provisions of state constitutions, or other lawfully recognized matters of privilege. A person relying on such a provision in response to a question should openly assert the basis for nondisclosure.

[3] A lawyer representing an applicant for admission to the bar, or representing a lawyer who is the subject of a disciplinary inquiry or proceeding, is governed by the Rules applicable to the attorney-client relationship.

[4] The Rule also prohibits the obstruction of either an admissions or disciplinary inquiry. "Obstruction" is used in the ordinary sense and includes, among other intentional acts, purposeful delay, attempts to improperly influence others who are requested to provide information, and the falsification or destruction of relevant documentation.

Virginia Code Comparison

Rule 8.1 is broader than DR 1-101 of the Virginia Code. DR 1-101(A) provided that a lawyer is "subject to discipline if he has made a materially false statement in, or if he has deliberately failed to disclose a material fact requested in connection with, his or another's application for admission to the bar." DR 1-101(B) provided that a lawyer is "subject to discipline if he has made a materially false statement in any certification required to be filed as a condition of maintaining or renewing his license to practice law."

Committee Commentary

The Committee preferred the broader coverage of the ABA Model Rule to that of DR 1-101 and made it even broader by adding language to the opening sentence covering required certifications and license renewal. Additionally, the Committee added paragraph (c) to impose an affirmative duty of cooperation with lawful demands for information, and added paragraph (d) to make it a separate violation to obstruct any investigation by a disciplinary or admissions authority.

The amendments effective September 26, 2002, in introductory paragraph, inserted “or” after present words “to practice law” to read “or in connection with a disciplinary matter…”

The amendments effective January 1, 2004, in introductory paragraph, inserted “already admitted to the bar,” and deleted “in connection with” between present words “application” and “any certification.”

Updated: October 29, 2009