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Supreme Court asks for pro bono proposal for corporate counsel

The Supreme Court of Virginia has asked the Virginia State Bar and the Virginia Bar Association to submit a proposed rule for pro bono practice by corporate counsel.

The request followed comments last month by Randal S. Milch, executive vice president and general counsel of Verizon Communications Inc., about “regulatory impediments” by the Virginia State Bar to pro bono work by corporate counsel who are not licensed in the state.

Such work is governed Rule 1A:5 and generally requires corporate counsel to be associated with a legal aid society and to have his or her work pro bono work overseen by a supervising attorney who is a VSB member.

That restriction was imposed largely because of concerns about legal malpractice by an uninsured attorney who provides advice outside his area of expertise.

Milch said at a pro bono conference called by Chief Justice Leroy Rountree Hassell Sr. that he understands those legitimate concerns but contended that corporate counsel are “no less talented or committed to meeting the needs of the poor” than are other lawyers.

VSB Executive Director Karen A. Gould responded to the comments by asking the court if it wanted the agency to make proposals on the issue. Hassell in turn sent Gould a letter “invit[ing] the Virginia State Bar, working in conjunction with the Virginia Bar Association, to submit, for the Court’s consideration, a proposed rule on this issue.”
By Alan Cooper

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