Code of Virginia

Code of Virginia
Title 54.1. Professions and Occupations
2/27/2020

Article 4. Examinations and Issuance of Licenses.

§ 54.1-3925. Application for examination.

A person desiring to take an examination under this article shall file with the Board his application therefor in such form as the Board may require not later than May 10 for the next following July examination and December 15 for the next following February examination. An application shall be deemed to be timely filed if (i) it is transmitted expense prepaid to the Office of the Secretary of the Board by priority, express, registered, or certified mail via the United States Postal Service, or by a third party commercial carrier for next-day delivery, and (ii) the official receipt therefor issued by the United States Postal Service or by such third party commercial carrier, which shall be exhibited on demand of the Secretary, shows such transmission or mailing to the Secretary's office on or before the prescribed deadline.

Code 1950, § 54-60; 1952, c. 553; 1960, c. 379; 1966, c. 157; 1968, c. 74; 1972, cc. 535, 824; 1974, c. 686; 1980, c. 533; 1987, c. 265; 1987, Sp. Sess., c. 2; 1988, c. 765; 1992, c. 734; 1998, c. 71; 2011, c. 709.

§ 54.1-3925.1. Proof of character and fitness required of applicant; character and fitness committee; fees.

A. Before issuing to any applicant a license or certificate to practice law in Virginia, the Board shall have found from satisfactory evidence produced by the applicant in such form as the Board may require that the applicant is a person of honest demeanor and good moral character, is over the age of eighteen and possesses the requisite fitness to perform the obligations and responsibilities of a practicing attorney at law.

B. In making such determinations, the Board shall conduct such further inquiries, interviews and hearings as the Board may deem necessary. At the request of the Board, the Supreme Court may appoint a separate character and fitness committee, some of the members of which may be persons who are not licensed attorneys, to assist in reviewing character and fitness evidence and to make recommendations to the Board based upon standards adopted by the Board; however, no applicant shall be denied a license on character and fitness reasons except by action of a majority of the Board, after notice to the applicant and an opportunity for the applicant to be heard before the Board.

C. The Board shall from time to time set character and fitness application fees sufficient to cover the costs of the character and fitness process.

1992, c. 734; 1998, c. 796.

§ 54.1-3925.2. Access to criminal history records.

The Board is authorized to obtain criminal history record information relating to an applicant from any state or federal law-enforcement agency. Any information so obtained is for the exclusive use of the Board and the character and fitness committee and shall not be released to any other person or agency except in furtherance of the investigation of the applicant or with the authorization of the applicant or upon court order.

1992, c. 734.

§ 54.1-3925.3. Authority for subpoenas; qualified privilege and immunity.

A. In the conduct of investigations and hearings, the Board and character and fitness committee may administer oaths and affirmations and may issue subpoenas for the attendance of witnesses and the production of papers, books, accounts, documents, and other records or tangible evidence relevant to any such investigation or hearing. Any subpoena shall be issued in the name of the Board and be signed by a member of the Board or by its secretary.

B. If any person fails or refuses to obey a subpoena, or to give testimony, the Board shall notify the circuit court of the county or city wherein the hearing is or was to have been held, or where the documents or tangible things were to have been produced. On receipt of the notice, the circuit court shall issue an order compelling such person's attendance or testimony, or both, or the production of the documents or tangible things, to the same extent as could be required in a proceeding in court.

C. Information furnished to and testimony given before the Board or the character and fitness committee in the course of an investigation or hearing shall be privileged, and any person furnishing information or giving testimony shall be immune from civil liability therefor, unless it is shown that such person was motivated by actual malice.

1992, c. 734.

§ 54.1-3926. Preliminary proof of education required of applicant.

Before an applicant will be permitted to take any examination under this article the applicant shall furnish to the Board satisfactory evidence that he has:

1. Completed all degree requirements from a law school approved by the American Bar Association or the Board; or

2. Received a bachelor's degree from an accredited baccalaureate institution of higher education and studied law for three years, consisting of not less than 18 hours per week for at least 40 weeks per year in the office of an attorney practicing in this Commonwealth, whose full time is devoted to the practice of law; or

3. Studied law for at least three years partly in a law school approved by the American Bar Association or the Board and partly, for not less than 18 hours per week for at least 40 weeks per year, in the office of an attorney practicing in this Commonwealth whose full time is devoted to the practice of law; or

4. Received a bachelor's degree from an accredited baccalaureate institution of higher education and studied law for three years, consisting of not less than 18 hours per week for at least 40 weeks per year, with a retired circuit court judge who served the Commonwealth as a circuit court judge for a minimum of 10 years and who at the time of commencement of the three-year study period was retired for not more than five years.

The attorney in whose office or the judge with whom the applicant intends to study shall be approved by the Board, which shall prescribe reasonable conditions as to the course of study.

Code 1950, § 54-62; 1952, c. 553; 1960, c. 379; 1980, c. 533; 1988, c. 765; 1995, c. 336; 1998, cc. 119, 796.

§ 54.1-3927. Time and place of examination.

The Board shall hold at least two examinations each year, at such times as it may prescribe by general rule or special order. If only two examinations are held in any one year, they shall not be less than four months apart. One examination shall be held in the City of Richmond, and one in the City of Roanoke each year, unless for good cause it is necessary to hold it elsewhere.

Code 1950, § 54-63; 1973, c. 284; 1988, c. 765.

§ 54.1-3928. Issuance of license or certificate; list of persons certified to Supreme Court.

The Board shall issue a license to practice law in this Commonwealth to every applicant who successfully passes the examination on all the subjects required and complies with the requirements of this chapter and the rules of the Board. The Board shall issue a certificate to practice law in the Commonwealth to an applicant if the Board is satisfied that the applicant meets the criteria for the certificate established by Rules of the Supreme Court.

The license or certificate shall be signed by at least three members of the Board. The Board shall forthwith certify to the Supreme Court a list of persons whom it has licensed or to whom it has issued a certificate, and the list shall be spread upon the records of the Court.

Code 1950, § 54-64; 1988, c. 765; 1998, c. 796.

§ 54.1-3929. Preservation of examination papers.

The essay portion of the examination papers shall be kept on file in the office of the secretary and treasurer in Richmond for one year after the examination, after which it may be destroyed.

Code 1950, § 54-65; 1973, c. 284; 1988, c. 765.

§ 54.1-3930. Reexaminations.

Any applicant who fails an examination given after July 15, 1960, may be reexamined not more than four additional times upon showing to the Board that he has diligently pursued the study of law since the former examination and that he remains otherwise qualified under the provisions of this article. However, the Board may allow an applicant who has taken the examination five times to take additional examinations when, in the discretion of the Board, the applicant has shown mitigating circumstances which constitute good and sufficient cause for the applicant's failing the prior examination.

Code 1950, § 54-66; 1960, c. 379; 1988, c. 765.

§ 54.1-3931. Granting certificates without examination; law professors.

A. The Supreme Court shall have discretion to grant a certificate without examination to any attorney who has been admitted to practice law before the court of last resort of any state or territory of the United States or the District of Columbia for at least five years. The certificate shall entitle the holder, after paying his license tax, to practice in the courts of this Commonwealth.

B. The Supreme Court shall also have discretion to grant a certificate without examination to any person connected with any foreign embassy or legation to appear in the courts of this Commonwealth in all matters connected with his official duties, provided that the person has been admitted to practice in the court of last resort of the jurisdiction of the embassy or legation to which he is attached or he has received a degree from a law school approved by the American Bar Association.

C. The Supreme Court shall have the authority to promulgate rules and regulations allowing professors in law schools located in the Commonwealth, which are accredited by the American Bar Association, to become associate members of the Virginia State Bar. Nothing in this subsection shall preclude the granting of a certificate without examination to a professor who is otherwise eligible for such a certificate under any other provision of this section.

D. The Supreme Court may authorize the Board or any committee thereof to administer the provisions of this section.

E. All other persons shall take the examinations and comply with the applicable provisions of this chapter.

Code 1950, § 54-67; 1988, c. 765; 1998, c. 796; 2013, c. 396.

The chapters of the acts of assembly referenced in the historical citation at the end of these sections may not constitute a comprehensive list of such chapters and may exclude chapters whose provisions have expired.

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