The Supreme Court of Virginia approved April 15, 2011, effectively immediately, a proposed amendment to Supreme Court Rule 1A:5, Corporate Counsel & Corporate Counsel Registrants, which allows Virginia corporate counsel admitted in States other than Virginia to do pro bono work. This proposal came at the recommendation of the Joint Virginia State Bar and Virginia Bar Association Corporate Counsel Pro Bono Task Force (Task Force), with the hope of increasing the number of lawyers eligible to provide pro bono public services while ensuring that such lawyers are subject to adequate professional guidelines regarding competence in the handling of such matters.
The approved changes also revise paragraph (g) of the rule in three respects: (1) removes the requirement for Part I corporate counsel registrants to participate only in pro bono programs operated and controlled by any Virginia licensed Legal Aid Society; (2) removes the requirement that the Part I corporate counsel work under the “direct supervision” of a legal aid lawyer or a pro bono volunteer who is a regular active member of the Virginia State Bar; and (3) removes limitations on the specific services that can be performed by the corporate counsel volunteer. These changes broaden the scope of appropriate pro bono legal services for specific clients over other legal aid services, thereby creating additional opportunities for pro bono services for Part I corporate counsel. Even though the approved changes eliminate the provisions in the Rule pertaining to supervision, Part I corporate counsel are required by Rule 1.1, like all lawyers who practice law in Virginia, to serve their clients competently and have an ethical duty to make sure they received proper and sufficient training to handle a pro bono matter.