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Bar to require email address for every lawyer

The Supreme Court of Virginia has approved a rule change to require an email “address of record” for every Virginia lawyer.

The change is among a package of rule amendments recommended without dissent by the Virginia State Bar Council in February. Among the changes is a separation of “retired” and “disabled” lawyers in VSB membership classifications. Also reworked is the categorization for active members of the bar who are temporarily banned from practice for administrative reasons.

The changes come through a May 1 Supreme Court order. The amendments are effective June 30.

Email requirement

The email address of record “was a change that seemed timely and appropriate based on the realities of the modern practice of law,” the VSB said in its March 9 petition to the court. Email addresses “are ubiquitous, often free for the user and an efficient and cost savings means to communicate with members,” the VSB said.

A required email address of record “will facilitate more rapid communication that inures to the benefit of the members and the VSB,” the bar said.

Providing an email address to the bar would not necessarily expose the lawyer to unwanted messages, the bar said. The VSB said an attorney’s email address of record is considered “personal information” and would not be disclosed in response to a FOIA request. The VSB said it would not disseminate an email address of record if a member “affirmatively requests that it not be used for other than official VSB business.”

Status separation

The VSB said the disaggregation of disabled and retired status “seemed logical.”

“In short, it was meant to eliminate the connotation and association that resulted by conjoining the two classes into one status,” the VSB said in its petition to the court.

“It should not be inferred or implied that a retired lawyer is disabled. Conversely, a disabled lawyer is not necessarily retired and may again return to practice in the future before attaining the age of 70,” the VSB said.

The illogical lumping of the two groups created complications for lawyers trying to transfer from either status to the other or to active, associate or emeritus status, the bar said.

“Active member” redefined

The Supreme Court order also resolves a “practical conundrum” regarding lawyer classification, according to the VSB petition. Lawyers suspended for administrative or disciplinary purposes are still “lawyers,” but are not able to engage in the active practice of law.

Questions arose about whether such an attorney would have to complete CLE requirements, pay dues and certify insurance coverage under bar rules.

“This ill-defined categorization for active members who temporarily are banned from the practice of law necessitated a redefinition,” the VSB said.

Under the change, a lawyer otherwise admitted who has not satisfied membership requirements or is under a disciplinary or administrative suspension would still be an active member, just not “in good standing.”