Military Lawyers ‚ Virginia State Bar Membership Status.

You have indicated that you are a newly admitted member of the Virginia State Bar engaged in practice as a member of the Judge Advocate General’s Corps of the United States Naval Reserve. You are currently an active member of the Virginia State Bar.

You have raised three questions: (1) Is an associate member of the Virginia State Bar generally considered to be a member “in good standing?,??? (2) Is military law practice by associate members of the Virginia State Bar considered to be unauthorized practice of law?; and (3) May a Virginia associate member engage in military practice within Virginia?

Your first question is a factual one: The term “in good standing??? is applicable to associate members as well as to active members. The use of the term however, does not delineate the level of membership. “In good standing??? simply refers to whether or not requirements to maintain that specific level of membership have been met, i.e., appropriate dues paid and, in the case of active members, compliance with the requirements for completion of Legal Ethics course and Mandatory Continuing Legal Education course hours.

With regard to your other two questions, the Committee is of the opinion that, to extent that a military attorney’s practice is not regulated by federal law specific to his particular branch of service, the attorney must maintain his status as an active member in good standing of the Virginia State Bar, complying with all necessary requirements. Thus, if the only bar membership maintained by the attorney is associate status in the Virginia State Bar, with no active membership in any other state, it is the Committee’s opinion that the attorney may not engage in the practice of law. Earlier opinions of the Committee which indicated that it is not the unauthorized practice of law for an attorney not licensed in Virginia to represent individuals before military courts and boards on military reservations or to give legal advice and assistance to members of the military and their dependents in Virginia were both predicated on the facts that the attorney(s) “not licensed in Virginia??? were in fact members of the bar of at least one other state. See: UPL Opinions Nos. 89 and 108.

Committee Opinion
April 20, 1989


Updated: Aug 28, 2006