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Court proposes to drop full-time rule for waived-in lawyers

Following angry reactions prompted by examination of the rules for “waived in” lawyers, the Supreme Court of Virginia is proposing to drop its full-time practice requirement.

The change would affect lawyers who were licensed in other states and then admitted to the bar in Virginia by reciprocity, without taking the Virginia bar exam. Many of those lawyers, said to be “admitted by motion,” chafed at a rule under which their bar admission could be revoked if they failed to “practice full time as a member of the Virginia State Bar.” Regulations specified at least 35 hours a week.

Under proposed rules published for comment this week, the permanent full-time practice requirement would be replaced by a requirement for five years of practice “predominantly” in Virginia. The amended rules apparently would dispense with any minimum number of hours for a law practice.

“Predominantly” would mean that a lawyer’s Virginia practice each year would equal or exceed any practice in other jurisdictions.

Current regulations prohibit a waived-in lawyer from dividing time between a Virginia office and one in another jurisdiction.

Until the five-year requirement is met, a waived-in lawyer would have to certify annually that he or she is practicing predominantly in the commonwealth. If the lawyer elected not to continue with a predominant Virginia practice, the lawyer could opt for associate status.

Lawyers admitted on motion complained last year that the full-time practice requirement unfairly hindered attorneys taking time off for child birth or child care, older lawyers seeking to limit their work hours and retired lawyers who wanted to offer pro bono services.

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