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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41-Non-Virginia Lawyers

45-Law Firms - Miscellaneous

Under Virginia Rule 5.5, non-Virginia lawyers "may not practice Virginia law on a 'systematic and continuous' basis," unless they (1) limit their practice to the "law of the jurisdiction/s where they are licensed"; (2) practice "exclusively federal law" under the federal supremacy clause (such as "lawyers with practices limited to immigration or military law or who practice before the Internal Revenue Service, the United States Tax Court, or the United States Patent and Trademark Office," although lawyers such as bankruptcy, patent or federal procurement lawyers must abide by courts' possible limitation of practice before the courts to members of the Virginia Bar, and may provide advice "such as the debtor's homestead exemption and status or priority of claims or liens" or "the assignment of the patent to a third party or the organization of a corporate entity to market or franchise the invention" only under the conditions mentioned immediately below; (3) "provide advice about Virginia law or matters peripheral to federal law (described immediately above) only if they do so on a "temporary and occasional" basis and (as stated in UPL Opinion 195) "under the direct supervision of a Virginia licensed lawyer before any of the [non Virginia] lawyer's work product is delivered to the client" or if they "associate with an active member of the Virginia State Bar." This liberal multijurisdictional practice approach (allowing non-Virginia lawyers to practice systematically and continuously in Virginia as long as they limit their practice to the law of jurisdictions where they are licensed) "embrac[es]" the approach of two earlier Virginia Supreme Court-approved Virginia UPL opinions (UPL Opinions 195 (2000) and 201 (2001)). Rule 5.5 overrules an earlier UPL Opinion about which law applies to a non Virginia lawyer's practice of another state's law while physically in Virginia; thus, "New York law should govern whether a foreign lawyer not authorized to practice in New York may advise New York clients on matters involving New York law. The [non Virginia] lawyer's physical presence in Virginia may not be a sufficient basis to apply Virginia's rules over New York's rules governing foreign lawyer practice." Contract lawyers hired to "work on a matter involving Virginia law" must either "be licensed in Virginia or work in association with a Virginia licensed lawyer in the firm on a temporary basis" although such a lawyer's practice "could be regarded as 'continuous and systematic" if the non Virginia contract lawyer is hired "to work on several and various Virginia matters/cases over a period of time." Such contract lawyers need not be licensed in Virginia if the lawyer is "hired to work only on matters involving federal law or the law of the jurisdiction in which the [non Virginia] contract lawyer is admitted." [Approved by the Supreme Court of Virginia 11/2/16].

Copyright 2000, Thomas E. Spahn