Non-Lawyer Participation on Condominium’s Tribunal.

This is in response to your letter of January 22, 1993 requesting an Unauthorized Practice of Law advisory opinion dealing with a non-lawyer’s participation as a member of a condominiumís “executive organ or such other tribunal as the condominium instruments specify,??? as indicated in Virginia Code §§ 55-79.80(C) and 55-513(B).

The Committee considered your inquiry at its February 11, 1993 meeting and has directed me to transmit its conclusions to you.

The appropriate and controlling Virginia Unauthorized Practice Rule is UPR 1-101(A) which, in pertinent part, precludes a non-lawyer from representing the interest of another before a tribunal. Part Six: Section I: Rules of Supreme Court of Virginia [emphasis added]. Further guidance is available through Unauthorized Practice Consideration 1-1 which defines the term “tribunal??? to include

in addition to the courts and judicial officers of Virginia or of the United States of America, the State Corporation Commission of Virginia and its various divisions, the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission, and the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, or any agency, authority, board, or commission when it determines the rights and obligations of parties to proceedings before it...

Id. [emphasis added]

First, the Committee is of the opinion that the circumstances you present, i.e., service as a participating member of a body which is designed to hear grievances as to property owners’ alleged violations of bylaws, rules, or regulations of a condominium or homeowner association, do not fall under the basic definition of the practice of law since that anticipates that one individual is representing another before a tribunal.

Second, the Committee is of the opinion that the plain language of the definition of “tribunal,??? as found in UPC 1-1, limits the application of that term to governmental bodies. Therefore the Committee believes that the term is not intended to apply to bodies organized by contract of the parties, e.g., under the condominium instruments, irrespective of any statutory provision which may require that such a body be established.

Thus, the Committee is of the opinion that it does not constitute the unauthorized practice of law for a non-lawyer to be a member of a “tribunal??? of a condominium or homeowner association, as defined in the above-referenced Virginia Code sections, for the purposes of determining whether a property owner in such association has violated any bylaw, rule, or regulation [of the association] and to punish such alleged violations by the levying of “charges??? for “offenses??? as these words are used in the relevant statutes.

Committee Opinion
March 5, 1993


Updated: Aug 28, 2006