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

A lawyer's "physical presence in the local jurisdiction [where she is physically located while representing clients in other jurisdictions] is incidental; it is not for the practice of law" — as long as the lawyer "is for all intents and purposes invisible as a lawyer to a local jurisdiction where the lawyer is physically located, but not licensed." Thus, such a lawyer does not violate ABA Model Rule 5.5 as long as she does not hold out to the public that she is authorized to practice in that jurisdiction, and does not practice that jurisdiction's law. Although a jurisdiction might consider that conduct to be the unauthorized practice of law, and has an interest in ensuring that such a lawyer is "competent," such a "local jurisdiction has no real interest in prohibiting a lawyer from practicing the law of a jurisdiction in which that lawyer is licensed and therefore qualified to represent clients in that jurisdiction." Maine LEO 189 (2005) and Utah LEO 19-03 agree with this analysis. Among the various ABA Model Rule 5.5 provisions allowing lawyers to practice in a jurisdiction where they are not licensed, lawyers can also rely on ABA Model Rule 5.5 (c)(4's) provision permitting "temporary" practice under specified conditions where they are not licensed — and "[h]ow long that temporary period lasts could vary significantly based on the need to address the pandemic."

Copyright 2000, Thomas E. Spahn