Monday, November 18, 2013

New Rule On Admission Without Examination In Virginia

An announcement from the web page of the Virginia State Bar:

By order entered November 1, 2013, the Supreme Court of Virginia has adopted, effective February 1, 2014, a new Rule 1A:1, addressing admission to the Virginia bar without examination (often called “admission on motion”).  Although the old and new rules are similar in many respects, there are several significant differences.

To continue encouraging other states to grant the same privilege to Virginia lawyers, the Court has retained the requirement that only lawyers who are admitted in jurisdictions that also admit Virginia lawyers without examination (i.e., “reciprocal” jurisdictions) are eligible for admission on motion in Virginia. The new rule requires that admission to the bar of the reciprocal jurisdiction must have been by examination.

Admission on motion is based on the premise that passage of a reciprocal state’s bar exam combined with the experience gained over the course of several years of recent successful law practice may be accepted in place of a second bar exam as evidence of one’s legal knowledge and ability. The minimum practice requirement has been reduced from five of the last seven years under the old rule to three of the last five years. New requirements for twelve hours of approved instruction on Virginia substantive law and/or procedure and familiarity with the Virginia Rules of Professional Conduct have been added. Unchanged is the statutory requirement of a minimum of five years’ bar admission. Persons applying for admission on motion must still establish their good character and fitness to practice law in Virginia.

In what is perhaps the most significant change, the new rule drops the old rule’s requirement that one admitted on motion commit to practice full-time in Virginia; and lawyers admitted on motion, including those who have been admitted under the old rule, are no longer subject to potential license revocation if they move out of state or change their status. Lawyers admitted on motion may change their membership status under the applicable membership rules in the same manner as lawyers admitted by examination.

The Supreme Court of Virginia will be issuing revised regulations consistent with the provisions of new Rule 1A:1, and the Board of Bar Examiners is preparing new application forms. The new regulations and the application forms will be available in January on the board’s website, and the board will begin accepting applications under the new rule on February 1, 2014.

(Mike Frisch)

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