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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11-"Of Counsel" Relationship

A solo practitioner may become "of counsel" to a law firm, which requires "a close, continuing, and personal relationship between a lawyer and a firm that is not the relationship of a partner, associate, or outside consultant." The "of counsel" relationship must "involve some element of the practice of law" -- rather than a "pure business affiliation" or the mere forwarding of business. Lawyers entering into such a relationship with a law firm, or incorrectly holding themselves out as having such a relationship, will be treated as "associated" with the law firm for imputation of conflicts purposes. Such lawyers and law firms cannot avoid such imputation by imposing ethics screens or using a term other than "of counsel" ("if the lawyer holds himself out to potential clients as being closely associated with the firm, or if he in fact is closely and regularly associated with the firm"). Imputation of conflicts does not result from a lawyer's role as an independent contractor. For instance, a lawyer will not be deemed "associated" with the firm for imputation or conflicts purposes "if the lawyer's access to information is restricted solely to those matters on which he or she is working on a temporary or occasional basis."

Copyright 2000, Thomas E. Spahn