June 23, 2009
Highlights of the June 18, 2009, Virginia State Bar Council Meeting
At its regular meeting on June 18, 2009, the Virginia State Bar Council heard the following significant reports and took the following significant actions:
Executive Director Karen A. Gould and Alan S. Anderson, vice chair of the Standing Committee on Budget and Finance, reported that the VSB’s budget now is in the black. Budget cuts have reversed the bar’s deficit spending, and the need for an increase in dues has been postponed. The cuts did not affect services to the public or attorneys.
Conrad Clients’ Protection Fund Claims
Barry J. Dorans, chair of the Clients’ Protection Fund Board, reported that the board has almost finished processing 167 petitions related to Stephen Thomas Conrad. The fund has received $5,767,504.77 in claims and will pay out the aggregate limit of $411,165, which was 10 percent of the net value of the fund the day the first Conrad petition was received.
Diversity Conference Approved
The council voted to establish a conference “to promote diversity in the profession and the practice of law.” The council also voted to give the chair of the conference a seat on the council but not on the VSB Executive Committee. A proposal to add a diversity component to the VSB mission statement was taken off the table by the task force. Under the terms approved by the council, the conference will be privately funded through a nonprofit organization. No bar dues will be used to pay for the conference’s operations or programs. The proposal will be sent to the Supreme Court of Virginia for approval. Development of the conference was a priority of Manuel A. Capsalis during his presidency in 2008-09.
Paragraph 13 Amendments
The council approved changes to the Rules of the Virginia Supreme Court, Part 6, § IV, ¶13, that would:
- Strike “mutual agreement” language that has not been in use in the disciplinary system for many years.
- Clarify the process and burden of proof for a show cause hearing after a guilty plea or adjudication of a crime.
- Amend the duties of a disbarred or suspended respondent.
The proposals will be sent to the Court for approval.
Sale of Law Practice
The council approved a change to Rules of Professional Conduct 1.17, to allow a lawyer who sells a portion of a practice to continue to practice in other areas of law in the same geographical region. The proposal will be sent to the Court for approval.
Felony UPL Charge
The council agreed to request the General Assembly to amend Virginia Code § 54.1-3904 to increase the penalty for egregious unauthorized practice of law to a felony. To qualify, the UPL must cause loss of $200 or more — the amount required for felonious larceny. The proposal will be sent to the Court for approval.
Advertising Committee Dissolved
The council sunsetted the Standing Committee on Lawyer Advertising and Solicitation, which issued lawyer advertising opinions, monitored compliance with the ethics rules that govern advertising, and occasionally recommended prosecution for noncompliance. The committee’s work will be continued by the Standing Committee on Legal Ethics.
The council approved amendments to conform Consumer Real Estate Settlement Protection Act regulations to statutory changes effective July 1, 2009.
Malpractice Insurance Committee Term Extended
The council extended the term to be served by members of the Special Committee on Lawyer Malpractice Insurance from three to five years, because of the time necessary to learn the subject matter.
MCLE Certification Mailing Discontinued
The council voted to discontinue automatic mailing of mandatory continuing legal education certification forms, for an annual savings of more than $14,000. Lawyers can access the information through the Member Login at VSB.org. By request, the VSB will mail the certification to individual members.
The council approved amendments that:
- Establish time limits for an attorney to register with the Virginia State Bar after being licensed by the Virginia Board of Bar Examiners or admitted to practice in other categories of membership.
- Allow lawyers to request that their names be omitted from the membership list when it is distributed electronically or otherwise for nonofficial purposes.
- Clarify the language that defines associate member status.
- Clarify that associate members, as well as active members, can qualify for the disabled/retired class of membership when need arises.
These amendments will be sent to the Court for approval.
A proposal to require insurance companies to notify claimants and judgment creditors when the company issues a settlement check was postponed for consideration until the October 18, 2009, council meeting, to allow more time for comment.