June 25, 2008
Highlights of the June 19, 2008, Virginia State Bar Council Meeting
At its meeting on June 19, 2008, in Virginia Beach, the Virginia State Bar Council heard the following significant reports and took the following actions:
Mandatory Malpractice Insurance Proposal
The council voted to publish for comment a proposed rule that would require certain lawyers to carry malpractice insurance and set minimal limits for that insurance. The requirement would be imposed on lawyers “engaged in the private practice of law regularly representing clients (individuals or entities) drawn from the public.” The word “regularly” was added to prevent a chilling effect on pro bono work by corporate attorneys and others who do not draw their paying clients from the public. The council instructed that the publication include a disclaimer that the proposal has not been endorsed by the council. The proposal will be published on the VSB website and in the Virginia Lawyer Register so that members can comment before the October council meeting.
New Bar Counsel
Edward L. “Ned” Davis, a fifteen-year assistant bar counsel, was endorsed without opposition for the position of bar counsel. He succeeds George W. Chabalewski.
VSB Website More Interactive
Virginia State Bar members now can use the VSB website to change their addresses of record and certify attendance at VSB-approved continuing legal education courses. VSB Executive Director Karen A. Gould demonstrated the new services, accessible through the members-only section of the website, http://www.vsb.org/.
VSB Budget Approved
Budget & Finance Committee member Jan Brodie outlined measures the VSB has taken to decrease its expenses, as the agency is spending deeply out of its reserves and facing the likelihood of requesting authority to increase dues in the near future. Economies include the Supreme Court of Virginia’s decision to cut the VSB staff’s cost-of-living raise to 2 percent and eliminate exceptional performance raises proposed for this year.
ALPS Financial Rating Improves
President Howard W. Martin Jr. reported that insurance evaluator A.M. Best has replaced the “negative outlook” with a “stable outlook” designation in its rating of ALPS, the bar’s endorsed legal malpractice insurance carrier. Best also affirmed ALPS’s A-minus (Excellent) rating. Company officials hope that the “minus” designation will be lifted in the near future.
Emergency Legal Services Rule
The council unanimously endorsed a proposed rule that would allow flexibility in providing legal services in the case of a declared disaster. Under the proposal, the Supreme Court of Virginia may allow out-of-state lawyers to provide pro bono legal services to Virginians. The Court also may allow out-of-state lawyers displaced by disaster to practice temporarily in Virginia to continue to serve clients in the lawyers’ home jurisdictions.
The proposal grew out of the experience after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, when unauthorized practice of law rules limited out-of-state lawyers’ ability to help residents of the affected Gulf Coast states. The Virginia proposal (http://www.vsb.org/docs/ELS-Rule_022808.pdf) will now go to the Supreme Court of Virginia for its consideration.
UPL Opinions Endorsed
The council endorsed:
• UPL Opinion 213 – Attorney on Associate Status Representing Multiple Ownership Interest in Negotiation and Drafting of Easement (see http://www.vsb.org/docs/UPL_213_draft_040808.pdf), by a vote of 45-1.
• UPL Opinion 214 – Nonlawyer Representation, for Compensation, of a Party to Arbitration (see http://www.vsb.org/docs/UPL_214_draft_040808.pdf), by a unanimous vote.
Memorials and Resolutions
The council endorsed a resolution in memory of Fairfax Circuit Judge David R. Stitt, an active volunteer with the VSB. On the bench, Stitt “served with toughness, compassion, fairness, and humor,” the resolution stated.
Mark D. Braley, director of Legal Services Corporation of Virginia, was recognized for his successful efforts in the 2008 General Assembly to increase money available for legal aid through court filing fees. The increase “will ensure that fewer low-income Virginians will be turned away due to staff vacancies in legal aid offices, that legal aid attorneys earn a living wage and no longer need to work second jobs to make ends meet, and that a greater number of dedicated legal aid staff will be able to work and retire with dignity,” according to the resolution.
VSB Assistant Executive Director Susan C. Busch was commended for her work since 1979 with the Clients’ Protection Fund. “Mrs. Busch has dealt with poise and fairness with all participants in the claims process before the Clients' Protection Fund, including petitioners, attorneys, third-party claimants, and all others she has encountered,”stated the resolution, presented by the CPF Board. Busch no longer serves as staff liaison to the board.Updated: Jun 25, 2008