WMACCA & ACC TEAM UP ON VIRGINIA PRACTICE RULES – And WMACCA Offers Tips to ACC Chapters Ready to Have an Impact

On December 1, 2012, the WMACCA Chapter and ACC filed comments with the Supreme Court of Virginia on proposed changes to the rules on admission without examination.

The comment letter underscored WMACCA and ACC’s commitment to ensure that state practice rules align with those of other jurisdictions and reflect the realities of modern in-house practice. They noted that such alignment could be achieved while still ensuring that an applicant for admission without examination demonstrates that he or she “has made such progress in the practice of law that it would be unreasonable to require the applicant to take an examination.”

In its letter, WMACCA and ACC recommend that the Court reconsider its amendments to Rules 1A:1 and 1A:3 on five key issues:

• Require only “active practice of the law” as a threshold qualification, instead of 35 hours of full-time practice, to allow for attorneys with reduced-hour schedules are treated equally with attorneys admitted by examination;
• Shorten its minimum practice requirement as a threshold qualification to three years, instead of five of the last seven years;
• Eliminate the requirement to hold an unrestricted license to acknowledge that many in-house counsel do not practice in their home jurisdiction, but instead represent their clients as designated corporate counsel in other jurisdictions;
• Eliminate the “intent to practice” requirement in Virginia after admission to allow maximum professional flexibility and ensure equal treatment with attorneys admitted by examination; and
• Harmonize the rules so that the period of time that a lawyer practices in Virginia with a corporate counsel certificate expressly counts toward the minimum practice requirement.

WMACCA and ACC also urged reexamination of several supplemental requirements set forth in interpretive regulations accompanying the admission without examination rule, including the requirement to acquire office space in Virginia and the prohibition on practicing from one’s residence.

In October 2011, WMACCA had filed comments on proposed amendments to the rule governing revocation of admission without examination. At that time, WMACCA had laid the ground work for its latest comments by recommending that the Court “re-examine and amend certain outdated requirements contained in Rule 1A:1 and the supporting regulations.”

The opportunity to file comments on Rules 1A:1 and 1A:3 one year later allowed WMACCA and ACC to reach a new milestone in their advocacy goals. Both organizations viewed the comment letter as a great team effort and a good example of how chapters can work with the ACC Advocacy team on issues that are of both local and national importance.

In a recent dialogue with other ACC chapters about how to pursue advocacy initiatives successfully, WMACCA offered salient tips that may be of use to chapters pursuing similar goals:

1. Immediately notify ACC Advocacy staff of an advocacy issue and your chapter’s desire to weigh in on it; find out if and how other ACC chapters have addressed the same or similar issue in their jurisdictions.
2. Touch base with your chapter members who are also volunteer leaders with the relevant Bar association or other organization responsible for the advocacy issue to get their insights and understand if your views are aligned.
3. Seek input from chapter members through an e-newsletter, an eGroup/listserv message, or the like.
4. Leverage relationships with the State Bar(s) in your chapter’s jurisdictions to determine the relevant decision-makers and take their temperature(s) vis-à-vis your chapter’s position(s) on the issue.
5. Consider having the General Counsel of large companies whose headquarters are located in the particular jurisdiction weigh in jointly or separately, particularly if the issue must be decided by an elected official or legislative body.
6. Align with other bar associations or their local chapters if your respective interests are the same or similar, but only after receiving approval from ACC Advocacy.