Professional Guidelines

An agency of the Supreme Court of Virginia

The Virginia State Bar

Professional Guidelines

13-1 Definitions

As used in this Paragraph, the following terms shall have the meaning herein stated unless the context clearly requires otherwise:

“Adjudication of a Crime Proceeding” means the proceeding which follows the summary Suspension of an Attorney after receipt by the Clerk of the Disciplinary System of initial notification from any court of competent jurisdiction stating that an Attorney has been found guilty of a Crime, irrespective of whether sentencing has occurred.

“Admonition” means a finding that Respondent has committed Misconduct but: 

  1. No substantial harm to the Complainant or the public has occurred; or
  2. The Misconduct is minor and Respondent has taken reasonable precautions against a recurrence or there is otherwise little likelihood of repetition; or  
  3. There exist exceptional circumstances, which must be set forth in writing. 

            An Admonition may be imposed as a

  1. Private sanction by a Subcommittee sua sponte;
  2. Private or public sanction based upon an Agreed Disposition approved by a Subcommittee; or 
  3. Public sanction imposed by a District Committee, the Board, or a three-judge Circuit Court.  

“Agreed Disposition” means the disposition of a Disciplinary Proceeding agreed to by Respondent and Bar Counsel and approved by a Subcommittee, District Committee, the Board or a Circuit Court.

“Answer” means a written response to a Charge of Misconduct, Certification, or petition for expedited hearing, which shall respond to each fact and Misconduct allegation contained in the Charge of Misconduct, Certification, or petition for expedited hearing, and be signed by the Respondent.

“Attorney” means a member of the Bar, a Corporate Counsel Registrant, Foreign Lawyer, Foreign Legal Consultant, and any member of the bar of any other jurisdiction while engaged, pro hac vice or otherwise, in the practice of law in Virginia.

“Bar” means the Virginia State Bar.

“Bar Counsel” means the Attorney who is appointed as such by Council and who is approved by the Attorney General pursuant to Va. Code § 2.2-510 and such deputies, assistants, and Investigators as may be necessary to carry out the duties of the office, except where the duties must specifically be performed by the individual appointed pursuant to Va. Code § 2.2-510.

“Bar Official” means any Bar officer or any member, employee, or counsel of Council, the Board, a District Committee, or COLD.

“Board” means the Bar Disciplinary Board.

“Certification” means the document issued by a Subcommittee or a District Committee when it has elected to certify allegations of Misconduct to the Board for its consideration, which document shall include sufficient facts to reasonably notify Bar Counsel and Respondent of the basis for such Certification and the Disciplinary Rules alleged to have been violated.

“Certification for Sanction Determination” means the document issued by a District Committee to certify to the Board that a sanction within the power of the Board is in order where the District Committee has found that Respondent failed to fulfill the terms of a Public Reprimand with Terms issued either by a Subcommittee on the basis of an Agreed Disposition or by a District Committee.

“Chair” unless otherwise specified, means the Chair, Vice Chair, or Acting Chair of a District Committee, or a Section, Panel, or Subcommittee of a District Committee, or of the Board or any Panel of the Board.

“Charge of Misconduct” means the notice given by the Bar to a Respondent, setting forth generally the Misconduct alleged to have been committed by the Respondent, and identifying the specific Disciplinary Rule(s) alleged to have been violated by the Respondent.  The Charge of Misconduct shall also include the date, time, and place of the hearing. 

“Circuit Court” means a court designated as such by Va. Code §17.1-500.

“Clerk” means the Clerk of the Disciplinary System who, together with such assistants as may be required, provides administrative support to the disciplinary system and serves as official custodian of the records of the disciplinary system, unless the context indicates otherwise.

“COLD” means the Standing Committee on Lawyer Discipline.

“Complainant” means the initiator of a Complaint.

"Complaint" means any written communication alleging Misconduct or from which allegations of Misconduct reasonably may be inferred.

“Committee Counsel” means an Attorney District Committee member assigned to prosecute a Complaint. 

“Corporate Counsel Registrant” means a person who has been recorded by the Virginia State Bar as a Corporate Counsel Registrant pursuant to Rule 1A:5.

“Costs” means reasonable costs paid by the Bar to outside experts, consultants, or guardians ad litem in a proceeding conducted pursuant to subparagraph 13-22; reasonable travel and out-of-pocket expenses for witnesses; Court Reporter and transcript fees; electronic and telephone conferencing and recording costs, if such procedures are requested by Respondent; copying, mailing, and required publication costs; translator fees; and an administrative charge determined by Council.

“Council” means the Council of the Bar.

“Court Reporter” means a person who is qualified to transcribe proceedings in a Circuit Court.


“Crime” means:

  1. Any offense declared to be a felony by federal or state law;
  2. Any other offense involving theft, fraud, forgery, extortion, bribery, or perjury;
  3. An attempt, solicitation or conspiracy to commit any of the foregoing; or
  4. Any of the foregoing found by a foreign jurisdiction.

“Disbarment” has the same meaning as Revocation.

“Disciplinary Proceeding” means any proceeding governed by this Paragraph except an Impairment Proceeding.

“Disciplinary Record” means any tangible or electronic record of:

  1. Any proceeding in which the Respondent has been found to have committed Misconduct, including those proceedings in which (a) the Board’s or three-judge Circuit Court’s finding of Misconduct has been appealed to this Court; (b) the Respondent’s License has been revoked upon consent to revocation or Respondent has been found guilty of a Crime; or (c) the Respondent has received a sanction pursuant to this Paragraph; and
  2. Any proceeding in which the Respondent has been found to have committed a violation of CRESPA or RESA; and
  3. Any proceeding in this or any other jurisdiction which resulted in a sanction creating a disciplinary record at the time it was imposed.

“Disciplinary Record” does not include administrative, interim, summary, or Impairment Suspensions.

“Disciplinary Rules” means:

  1. the Virginia Rules of Professional Conduct and Virginia Code of Professional Responsibility, as applicable; and
  2. the disciplinary rules of any other jurisdiction applicable under Rule 8.5 of the Virginia Rules of Professional Conduct.

“Dismissal” means the dismissal of a Complaint or Disciplinary Proceeding by Bar Counsel, a Subcommittee, a District Committee, the Board or a Circuit Court.

“Dismissal De Minimis” means a finding that the Respondent has engaged in Misconduct that is clearly not of sufficient magnitude to warrant disciplinary action, and Respondent has taken reasonable precautions against a recurrence of same. 

“Dismissal for Exceptional Circumstances” means a finding that the Respondent has engaged in Misconduct but there exist exceptional circumstances mitigating against further proceedings, which circumstances shall be set forth in writing.

“District Committee” means one of the District Committees appointed as hereinafter provided or, where the context requires, a Panel, a Section, or a Subcommittee thereof.

“District Committee Determination” means the written decision of a District Committee or a Subcommittee of a District Committee, relating to a Complaint or Charge of Misconduct.

“Executive Committee” means the Executive Committee of the Bar. 

“Executive Director” means the Executive Director of the Bar and any deputy or assistant designated by Council to act as Executive Director.

“Files” means those files maintained by the Clerk of the Disciplinary System, and office of Bar Counsel with respect to each Complaint. 

“Foreign Lawyer” means a person authorized to practice law by the duly constituted and authorized governmental body of any State or Territory of the United States or the District of Columbia, or a foreign nation, but is neither licensed by the Court or authorized under its rules to practice law generally in the Commonwealth of Virginia, nor disbarred or suspended from practice in any jurisdiction.

“Foreign Legal Consultant” means a person who has been issued a foreign legal consultant certificate by the Virginia Board of Bar Examiners pursuant to Rule 1A:7.

“Impairment” means any physical or mental condition that materially impairs the fitness of an Attorney to practice law.

“Impairment Proceeding” means any proceeding:

  1. Initiated by Bar Counsel to petition the Board to order the Respondent to undergo examination(s) and provide releases for records;
  2. Initiated by a District Committee, the Board, or Bar Counsel to determine whether an Attorney has an Impairment;
  3. That follows the summary Suspension of an Attorney who may have an Impairment; or
  4. That follows a request by Respondent to terminate an Impairment Suspension.

“Investigation” means any inquiry by Bar Counsel, Committee Counsel, or the Bar’s designee concerning any alleged Misconduct or Crime committed by an Attorney or any Impairment of an Attorney.

“Investigative Report” means the report prepared as a result of an Investigation. 

“Investigator” means a person designated by the Bar to conduct an Investigation.

“Judge” means a judge within the meaning of Va. Code §17.1-900, and any judge appointed or elected under the laws of any other jurisdiction.

“Lawyer Assistance Program” means a mental health and/or substance abuse treatment program for Attorneys that is approved by the Bar.

“License” means the license or authority to practice law granted by this Court.

“Memorandum Order” means the opinion and order of the Board entered following a Disciplinary Proceeding that shall contain a brief statement of the findings of fact; the nature of the Misconduct shown by such findings of fact; the Disciplinary Rules found to have been violated by clear and convincing evidence; the sanction imposed; the notice requirements, if any, imposed upon Respondent; the time in which Terms are required to be satisfied by Respondent, if Terms are imposed; the alternative sanction, if Respondent fails to comply with any Terms that are imposed; the name and address of the Court Reporter who served at the hearing; the names of the members of the Board that constituted the Panel; and that Costs shall be reimbursed by Respondent.

“Misconduct” means any:

  1. Unlawful conduct described in Va. Code § 54.1-3935;
  2. Violation of the Disciplinary Rules;
  3. Conviction of a Crime;
  4. Conviction of any other criminal offense or commission of a deliberately wrongful act that reflects adversely on the Attorney’s honesty, trustworthiness, or fitness as an Attorney; or
  5. Violation of RESA or any regulations adopted pursuant thereto.

“Panel” means a group of members of a Section, District Committee, or the Board hearing a disciplinary matter that constitutes the quorum required by this Paragraph.

“Paragraph” means Paragraph 13 of the Rules of this Court, Part Six, Section IV.

“Petitioner” means:

  1. An Attorney seeking Reinstatement after a Revocation; or
  2. An Attorney seeking termination of an Impairment Suspension; or
  3. A Bar Counsel or District Committee Chair seeking an expedited hearing before the Board and alleging that an Attorney is engaging in Misconduct likely to result in injury to or loss of property of a client or other entity, or alleging an Attorney poses imminent danger to the public.

“Private Discipline” means any form of discipline that is not public.

“Private Reprimand” means a form of non-public discipline that declares privately the conduct of the Respondent improper but does not limit the Respondent’s right to practice law.

“Proceeding” means the same as Disciplinary Proceeding.

“Public Reprimand” means a form of public discipline that declares publicly the conduct of the Respondent improper, but does not limit the Respondent’s right to practice law.

“Receivership” means a receivership created pursuant to Va. Code § 54.1-3900.01 or § 54.1-3936. 

“Reinstatement” means the restoration by this Court of an Attorney’s License in the manner provided in this Paragraph.

“Reinstatement Proceeding” means the proceeding which takes place upon referral from this Court of a Petition for Reinstatement by an Attorney whose License was previously revoked.

"RESA" means Chapters 9 (titled “Real Estate Settlements”) and 10 (titled “Real Estate Settlement Agents”) of Title 55.1 of the Code of Virginia (formerly "Consumer Real Estate Settlement Protection Act" or "CRESPA").

“Respondent” means any Attorney:

  1. Who is the subject of a Complaint;
  2. Who is the subject of any proceeding under this Paragraph, Va. Code §§ 54.1-3900.01, 54.1-3935, 54.1-3936, or RESA; or
  3. Who is the subject of an Adjudication of a Crime Proceeding, Proceedings upon Disbarment, Revocation or Suspension in another jurisdiction, Impairment Proceeding, or Reinstatement Proceeding.

“Revocation” means any revocation of an Attorney’s License and, when applied to a lawyer not admitted or authorized to practice law in Virginia, means the exclusion from the admission to, or the exercise of any privilege to, practice law in Virginia.

“Section” means a subgroup of a District Committee that has the same powers, authority, and duties as the District Committee.

“Subcommittee” means a subgroup of a District Committee or any Section thereof, convened for the purpose of performing the functions of a Subcommittee as described in this Paragraph.

“Summary Order” means a bench order entered by the Chair or three-judge Circuit Court following a Disciplinary Proceeding that outlines in summary form the findings as to the allegations of Misconduct, the sanctions to be imposed, if any, the effective date of any sanctions imposed, and any notice requirements. 

“Suspension” means the temporary suspension of an Attorney’s License for either a fixed or indefinite period of time and, when applied to a lawyer not admitted or authorized to practice law in Virginia, means the temporary or indefinite exclusion from the admission to, or the exercise of any privilege to, practice law in Virginia.

“Terms” shall mean those conditions imposed on the Respondent by a Subcommittee, District Committee, Board, or Circuit Court, that require the Respondent to perform certain remedial actions as a necessary condition for the imposition of an Admonition, a Private or Public Reprimand, or a Suspension pursuant to this Paragraph. 

“Va. Code” means the 1950 Code of Virginia, as amended.

The amendments effective July 16, 2021revised Paragraph 13 to promote greater fairness, efficiency, consistency, and transparency in bar proceedings.

The amendments effective March 15, 2020, revised Paragraph 13-1 to clarify language for “Memorandum Order” and “Summary Order.”

The amendments effective December 1, 2019revised Paragraph 13-1 to clarify and simplify language.

Updated: July 14, 2021