Former Congressman — Appearance Before Virginia Federal and State Courts.

A Virginia law firm wishes to enter into a professional relationship with a former member of the United States Congress who is a long-time member, in good standing, of the bars of a number of western states, as well as the District of Columbia. The former member of Congress currently represents numerous clients in matters before the United States Congress and various federal agencies. One of his major clients, a national trade association, has requested that he relocate to its national headquarters in Northern Virginia. The law firm wishes to list the attorney as an “of counsel??? on the firm’s letterhead. The letterhead would clearly indicate that the former congressman is not admitted to the practice of law in Virginia and identify the states to which he is admitted. The former congressman would have available office space in the firm’s Virginia office.

Based on the above fact situation, it is not the unauthorized practice of law for the former congressman to appear before all Virginia federal and state courts, as well as any other tribunal located in the Commonwealth of Virginia, as along as the former congressman is accompanied by a member of the firm who is admitted to practice law in the Commonwealth of Virginia. It should be clear that the former congressman with whom the firm intends to form is a relationship would not hold himself out as authorized to practice law in Virginia, except that he may hold himself out to the extent permitted by an administrative agency before which he is permitted to practice as long as he does not misrepresent the scope of his practice authorized by such agency.

The law firm’s stationery should also clearly disclose that the former congressman is not a member of the Virginia State Bar.

Committee Opinion
March 2, 1988
Updated: Aug 28, 2006