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Court proposes relaxed military spouse rule

The Supreme Court of Virginia is proposing to allow most military spouse lawyers to practice without the supervision of licensed Virginia lawyers, a change sought by an advocacy group for attorneys married to active duty service members.

Rule amendments posted for comment Nov. 24 would require supervision only for out-of-state lawyers with less than five years of practice experience.

The Military Spouse J.D. Network contends Virginia’s current requirement for “supervision and direction” by Virginia lawyers is tantamount to a ban on Virginia practice by service members’ spouses. The rule presents both ethical and practical burdens on both the attorney spouse and the supervising lawyer, the group argued in a petition to the Supreme Court. Most local lawyers are unwilling to take on the requisite supervision responsibility, the group says.

The Virginia State Bar Executive Committee voted in June to recommend removing the “supervision and direction” provision. The Supreme Court now proposes to retain the requirement only for attorney spouses who have less than five years’ practice experience.

The proposed amendments to Rule 1A:8 are up for comment. Comments should be sent by Feb. 22 to Clerk Douglas B. Robelen at scvclerk@vacourts.gov or by mail at 100 North Ninth Street, 5th Floor, Richmond, VA 23219.