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Court considers provisional law license for military spouses

militaryThe Supreme Court of Virginia is asking for comment on a proposed provisional law license to allow military spouses to practice without examination under the supervision of Virginia lawyers.

The court has posted a proposed Rule 1A:8 that sets out the requirements.

The proposal follows a 2012 resolution of the Conference of Chief Justices urging states to adopt rules and procedures to accommodate the needs of nomadic military spouse attorneys.

“Accommodating the unique needs of military spouse attorneys comes at little cost to states, but makes a meaningful difference in the financial and personal well-being of military families,” said leaders of the Military Spouse JD Network in a report to the CCJ.

The proposed Virginia rule would require a military spouse to be employed by or associated with a “supervising Local Counsel” and practice “only under the supervision and direction” of the Local Counsel.

Once the applicant met the requirements of the rule, he or she would become an active member of the Virginia State Bar, the rule says, subject to the same membership requirements as other active Virginia lawyers.

To gain a provisional license, a military spouse would have to show that he or she:

(a)    has been admitted by examination to practice law before the court of last resort of any state or territory of the United States or of the District of Columbia;

(b)   holds a law degree from a law school accredited by the American Bar Association at the time of such applicant’s graduation;

(c)    has achieved a passing score on the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination as it is established in Virginia at the time of application;

(d)   is currently an active member in good standing in at least one state or territory of the United States, or the District of Columbia, where the applicant is admitted to the unrestricted practice of law, and is a member in good standing in all jurisdictions where the applicant has been admitted;

(e)    is not currently subject to lawyer discipline or the subject of a pending disciplinary matter in any other jurisdiction;

(f)    possesses the good character and fitness to practice law in Virginia;

(g)   is the dependent spouse of an active duty service member of the military;

(h)   is physically residing in Virginia by reason of the service member’s military orders;

(i)     is employed by or associated with a supervising Local Counsel, and provides the Virginia State Bar number, physical office address, mailing address, email address, and telephone number of Local Counsel, and the written consent of the supervising Local Counsel, on the form provided by the Virginia Board of Bar Examiners;

(j)     has submitted all requested character investigation information, in a manner and to the extent established by the VBBE, including all required supporting documents;

(k)   has never failed the Virginia Bar Examination;

(l)     has completed twelve hours of instruction approved by the Virginia Continuing Legal Education Board on Virginia substantive and/or procedural law, including four hours of ethics, within the six-month period immediately preceding the filing of the applicant’s application;

(m) shall certify that he or she has read and is familiar with the Virginia Rules of Professional Conduct; and

(n)   has paid such fees as may be set by the VBBE to cover the costs of the character and fitness investigation and the processing of the application.

3 comments

  1. I support Military Families!

  2. As an attorney licensed in California for 10 years before transferring to Virginia with my husband’s military transfer, it would have made a tremendous difference in our family if I had had the opportunity offered with this proposed rule. I took an extended leave of absence from the law rather than taking another bar. Because the military transfer so often, being able to practice law with these moves would have impacted my career path immensely.

  3. The District of Columbia does not require an additional bar examination but does require the full application fee, membership fee and character fitness examination.

    Speaking from experience, the District of Columbia’s process was financially a challenge but a smooth process none the less. If we lived in Virginia I could appreciate Rule 1A:8, however, would take issue with having to find a Local Counsel and the requirement to pay active member Bar dues while under the same.

    Rule 1A:8 also requires the military spouse to locate a supervising Local Counsel, which may pose a an additional barrier- typically our professional network takes time to build. Very few Counsels would be willing to sponsor an attorney under their license.

    Additionally, the requirement to have a passing Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination creates issues for both Louisiana licensed attorneys and older attorney whose scores have expired. If the attorney is licensed in another state and is in good standing, they generally are meeting the Professional Responsibility requirement.

    I suppose something is better than nothing- Hats off to Virginia!

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