Professional Guidelines

An agency of the Supreme Court of Virginia

The Virginia State Bar

Professional Guidelines

Practice of Law in the Commonwealth of Virginia

  • (A) No non-lawyer shall engage in the practice of law in the Commonwealth of Virginia or in any manner hold himself out as authorized or qualified to practice law in the Commonwealth of Virginia except as may be authorized by rule or statute.
  • (B) Definition of the Practice of Law. The principles underlying a definition of the practice of law have been developed through the years in social needs and have received recognition by the courts. It has been found necessary to protect the relation of attorney and client against abuses. Therefore, it is from the relation of attorney and client that any practice of law must be derived.

    The relation of attorney and client is direct and personal, and a person, natural or artificial, who undertakes the duties and responsibilities of an attorney is nonetheless practicing law though such person may employ others to whom may be committed the actual performance of such duties.

    The gravity of the consequences to society resulting from abuses of this relation demands that those assuming to advise or to represent others shall be properly trained and educated, and be subject to a peculiar discipline. That fact, and the necessity for protection of society in its affairs and in the ordered proceedings of its tribunals, have developed the principles which serve to define the practice of law.

    Generally, the relation of attorney and client exists, and one is deemed to be practicing law whenever he furnishes to another advice or service under circumstances which imply his possession and use of legal knowledge or skill.

    Specifically, the relation of attorney and client exists, and one is deemed to be practicing law whenever

    • (1) One undertakes for compensation, direct or indirect, to advise another, not his regular employer, in any matter involving the application of legal principles to facts or purposes or desires.
    • (2) One, other than as a regular employee acting for his employer, undertakes, with or without compensation, to prepare for another legal instruments of any character, other than notices or contracts incident to the regular course of conducting a licensed business.
    • (3) One undertakes, with or without compensation, to represent the interest of another before any tribunal-judicial, administrative, or executive-otherwise than in the presentation of facts, figures, or factual conclusions, as distinguished from legal conclusions, by an employee regularly and bona fide employed on a salary basis, or by one specially employed as an expert in respect to such facts and figures when such representation by such employee or expert does not involve the examination of witnesses or preparation of pleadings.
    • (4) One holds himself or herself out to another as qualified or authorized to practice law in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
  • (C) Definition of “Non-lawyer.” The term “non-lawyer” means any person, firm, association or corporation not duly licensed or authorized to practice law in the Commonwealth of Virginia.  However, any lawyer not licensed to practice law in Virginia, but licensed in any other state or territory of the United States or the District of Columbia, or a foreign nation, who provides legal advice or services to clients in Virginia, shall not be subject to these Unauthorized Practice rules but shall be subject to the laws, rules and regulations of the jurisdiction(s) in which he/she is licensed to practice, as well as otherwise applicable Virginia Law including the Virginia Rules of Professional Conduct.
  • (D) The Unauthorized Practice rules which follow represent a nonexclusive list of specific types of practice which would violate these rules.

Updated: February 25, 2010