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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28-Law Firm Staff


66-Lawyers Acting as "Scriveners"

The Virginia Supreme Court indicated in UPL 0p. 207 that non-lawyer social workers may assist small claims court litigants "with completion of the form document using language specifically dictated by the litigant," but would be engaged in the unauthorized practice of law if the social worker "selects the forms for the litigant or advises the litigant as to which forms are appropriate based on the litigant's particular case; or provide[s] any legal advice to the litigant." Based on this UPL opinion, the Bar explains that lawyers may not train social workers in undertaking any of the prohibited activities. The Bar notes the "critical distinction" between undertaking activities that require "knowledge of the law," and undertaking activities that amount to the unauthorized practice of law. Thus, lawyers may train social workers "on the law needed for performance of a job," but may not train social workers to engage in activities that amount to the practice of law. [Approved by the Supreme Court of Virginia 11/2/16].

Copyright 2000, Thomas E. Spahn