Virginia State Bar

An agency of the Supreme Court of Virginia

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Corporate Counsel

A Section of the Virginia State Bar.

Virginia Corporate Counsel Quarterly - Summer 2013

Corporate Counsel News

newsletter of the Virginia State Bar's Corporate Counsel Section

Update on Supreme Court Rule Changes Affecting Admissions and Licensing of Corporate Counsel

Pending rule changes to the Bar’s requirements for admission and possible later revocation for lawyers first licensed in other states have gotten better, from the perspective of your Corporate Counsel section and other aligned groups. A few questions and points for clarification remain.

In October 2012, the Supreme Court released for comment new proposed versions of Rule 1A:1 and 1A:3. These rules govern admission to the Virginia State Bar without examination for attorneys licensed in other jurisdictions (1A:1) and possible revocation of a Virginia license for lawyers so admitted (1A:3). The Corporate Counsel section and other organizations such as the Washington Metropolitan Area Corporate Counsel Association (WMACCA) and the Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) submitted their comments and concerns late last year to the Court’s October rule proposals.

The December comments by these corporate counsel bar associations were focused on aspects of the proposed changes that were likely to have a negative effect on in-house lawyers and legal departments. Those were the suggestion that a proposed 35-hour-per-week requirement for licensure be replaced by an “active practice of law” requirement, a standard defined in 2008 Virginia State Bar regulations. The associations and the section also requested a less restrictive previous practice requirement than the proposed “at least five of the immediately preceding seven years” in the state where the attorney is licensed before applying in Virginia.

The in-house bar groups also took exception to other elements of the October 2012 proposal, including:

  • the proposed requirement in Rule 1A:1(b) that the applying attorney hold an “unrestricted license to practice law,” because many states license in-house lawyers under a corporate counsel designation that would not fit this requirement.
     
  • the proposed requirement in Rule 1A:1(c) that the applying attorney must have, after admission, an intent to practice predominantly in Virginia for the first five years after being admitted, primarily because no such restriction exists for lawyers admitted by examination.
     

The Court released its latest versions of the proposed rules in April, and they adopted most but not all of the changes advocated by the inhouse bar groups. The 35-hour-per-week requirement was dropped in favor of the “active practice of law” requirement. The minimum practice requirement was shortened to three of the last five years (it had been proposed at five of the last seven). The “intent to practice” provision was removed. Not yet addressed is the requirement that the applicant hold an unrestricted license in its current state before waiving in to Virginia.

The Recommended Reading section below contains a link to the comments submitted on May 31, 2013, by ACC and WMACCA.

(Editors’ note: Va CCQ will be monitoring and partnering with ACC and WMACCA to communicate with our memberships on issues affecting the in-house bar. For our readers who are unfamiliar with these groups, here is who they are: The Washington Metropolitan Area Corporate Counsel Association (WMACCA) - a chapter of the global Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) - serves the professional needs of in-house counsel in Washington, D.C., the Commonwealth of Virginia, and parts of Maryland with continuing education and professional development programs and networking.)