Virginia Supreme Court Approved New Foreign Legal Consultant, Rule 1A:7

of the Rules of Virginia Supreme Court

New Rule Provides Opportunity for Limited Practice by Foreign Lawyers

Lawyers who are licensed in a jurisdiction outside the United States now must be certified under Rule 1A:7 Certification of Foreign Legal Consultants if they want to establish an office and practice in Virginia to provide legal services based on the law of the foreign jurisdiction.

The Supreme Court of Virginia adopted the rule on December 30, 2008, and it went into effect January 1, 2009.

Certification is not required for foreign lawyers who provide legal services in Virginia only on a temporary and occasional basis. Virginia-licensed lawyers who are also licensed by a jurisdiction outside the U.S. need not be certified as foreign legal consultants (FLCs).

The FLC Rule would apply, for example, to a lawyer licensed in India who wishes to open an office in Virginia from which he or she gives advice on matters of Indian law. That lawyer must be certified as a foreign legal consultant or face prosecution for the unauthorized practice of law.

Certification will be handled by the Virginia Board of Bar Examiners, which is developing an application form that will be posted at http://www.vbbe.state.va.us/forms.html.

To qualify, a foreign lawyer must be at least twenty-six and a member in good standing of a recognized legal profession. He or she must have practiced for at least five of the seven years preceding the application.

The rule requires the applicant to submit a certificate of good standing from each jurisdiction of licensure, a letter of recommendation, and other documents — all translated into English. The applicant also must document his or her compliance with U.S. immigration laws.

The Board of Bar Examiners will conduct a character and fitness investigation of each applicant.

Once certified, a foreign legal consultant (FLC) must pay a $225 annual fee to the VSB. FLCs will be subject to regulatory oversight by the VSB. Complaints against FLCs will be handled by the bar’s disciplinary department.

The certification carves out a limited scope of practice for FLCs, and offers opportunities for practice previously unavailable in Virginia.

FLCs can be partners in a Virginia law firm, and they can be employed by law firms. They can work as in-house counsel. They are accorded attorney-client, work product, and other professional privileges.

The public will have access to the FLC’s contact information and record of public discipline.

Adoption of the FLC Rule was recommended by the VSB Multijurisdictional Practice Task Force. Two other associated rules also adopted last month by the Court permit lawyers licensed outside Virginia — including lawyers licensed in jurisdictions outside the U.S. — to provide legal services here on a “temporary and occasional basis,” and extend the VSB’s disciplinary authority over all lawyers who provide legal services in Virginia, regardless of where they are licensed. (Rules 5.5 and 8.5 http://www.vsb.org/site/regulation/rules-55-and-85-of-rules-of-professional-conduct)

VSB Executive Director Karen A. Gould reported in the December 2008 issue of Virginia Lawyer that the new foreign legal consultant status provides more public protection, offers law firms unprecedented opportunity to broaden their client services in a multinational marketplace, and opens reciprocal relationships so that Virginia lawyers can expect similar courtesies when they are called on to give advice in other countries.

Posted: Jan 22, 2009

Updated: Oct 30, 2013