These summaries were prepared by McGuireWoods LLP lawyer Thomas E. Spahn. They are based on the letter opinions issued by the Virginia State Bar. Any editorial comments reflect Mr. Spahn's current personal views, and not the opinions of the Virginia State Bar, McGuireWoods or its clients. 
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45-Law Firms - Miscellaneous

50-Lawyer-Owned Businesses

As additional states "permit business structures that allow nonlawyer ownership of law firms and the sharing of legal fees with nonlawyers," lawyers "may acquire a ‘passive' investment interest" in what are called alternative business structures, as long as: (1) the passive investment "does not include scenarios in which the investing lawyer practices law through the ABS [alternative business structure], manages or holds a position of corporate or managerial authority in the ABS, or is otherwise involved in the daily operations of the ABS"; and (2) "the investing lawyer does not have access to information protected by [ABA] Model Rule 1.6 without the ABS client's informed consent." Although a law firm's lawyer's personal interest resulting from her investment in an ABS is not automatically imputed to her colleagues under ABA Model Rule 1.10, lawyers must analyze a possible ABA Model Rule 1.7(a)(2) "material limitation" conflict.9/8/2021

41-Non-Virginia Lawyers

Following several other states, "Virginia has no interest in restricting the practice of a lawyer whose only connection to Virginia is a physical location within the state."; Thus, non-Virginia lawyers may practice systematically and continuously "for any length of time," "may have a public presence in Virginia and [are] not required to be 'invisible' within the state" — as long as their work "involves the practice of the law of the [non-Virginia] lawyer's licensing jurisdiction or exclusively federal law that does not require Virginia licensure." Such lawyers must disclose that they are not licensed to practice in Virginia.1/11/2022

28-Law Firm Staff

31-Protecting and Disclosing Confidences and Secrets

Lawyers must comply with their Rule 1.1 competence and Rule 1.4 communication duties even "when a client's ability to receive information from or convey information to a lawyer is impeded because the lawyer and the client do not share a common language, or when a client is a person with a non-cognitive physical condition, such as a hearing, speech, or vision disability." Lawyers in that situation: (1) must select a qualified translator or interpreter (taking "particular care" if relying on the client's relatives, given the risk of bias or personal interest); (2) exercise their Rule 5.3 supervision responsibilities (emphasizing assistants' confidentiality duty); and (3) keep in mind any social and cultural differences when communicating with clients.10/6/2021

Copyright 2000, Thomas E. Spahn