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Susan Hackett, senior vice president and general counsel of ACCA, presented suggestions for improving the proposed rule. Her April 30 letter, excerpted below, was sent to Michael Glasser, president of the Virginia State Bar, W. Scott Street III, chair of the bar’s Task Force on Admission of Corporate Counsel, and Thomas Edmonds, the bar’s executive director and chief operations officer. On behalf of the American Corporate Counsel Association (ACCA), I write in support of your proposed rule for the registration of corporate counsel who are working in Virginia for their employer-clients, but who are not members of the Virginia State Bar. … Issues of bar admissions/UPL/MJP have predominated ACCA’s advocacy calendar since the association’s inception in 1982. ACCA has worked with states all over the country where the issue of registration or admission of corporate counsel working in the state without regular license has been raised, and we know that each state has its own set of concerns and hurdles to clear in putting together a fair proposal. Indeed, we have been working toward the creation of a model corporate counsel registration system that we can offer to states, and have learned much to add to our model from the work you have done. The proposed rule you have created has much to commend it. In the spirit of supporting your efforts, we offer the following comments to your proposal for your consideration. Re the requirement for taking the MPRE: … [T]he vast majority of corporate counsel who would be affected by this requirement in Virginia will be either lawyers who were first admitted to the bar before the early 1980′s when the MPRE was created, or other lawyers with significant practice experience who were not required to take the exam on their first admission to the bar. Clearly, the best indication of a lawyer’s ethical and professional compass is not tested on a paper exam, but through the travails of practice and experience at the bar. Perhaps the rule might provide that lawyers with less than five years of practice, who have not taken the MPRE and scored at an accepted level, be required to do so under the rule, but lawyers with five years or more practice experience be exempted, assuming that all other character and fitness requirements are met. … Re the definition and application of hours worked by corporate counsel toward the satisfaction of the five year waiver rule: … Demographics show that the vast majority of in-house counsel work in smaller departments; there are also a higher percent of women working in-house after several years of practice (their prime “family years”) than there are women working at comparably senior levels in outside firms. To continue to define the only eligible practices to count toward full waiver as those totaling 35 hours/week or more undervalues these two classes of lawyers and penalizes their employers for making what most might assume were laudable decisions. The quality of the lawyer’s work and the value of their services to their clients and the bar should be tantamount to the consideration of a lawyer’s worthiness to join the VSB, not the quantity of hours they practice in a week. … Re the six month in-transition limitation on the license: … It is not uncommon for a job hunt for a new position to take over 12 months. Thus, we suggest that a counsel who is between jobs have at least a 12 month transition period before losing the transportability of his corporate counsel registration to a new employer-client. Re the performance of pro bono work: … [W]e want to emphasize our belief that the proposal should incorporate a provision that would allow corporate counsel operating under a registration license to engage in pro bono activities with established legal services or bar entities that coordinate such work. It is the professional responsibility of every lawyer to engage in the provision of legal services to those who cannot otherwise afford them and to participate in the improvement of our legal system and its service to the broadest constituency of the public. To bar counsel operating under this special registration from such activities is not only a waste of their potential service to the Commonwealth and the bar, but also contrary to our oath of professionalism as lawyers and officers of the court. Re the process of registration itself: It may be possible to avoid significant delay and administrative work on the part of the VBBE/VSB if some of the paperwork requirements were streamlined to rely upon the character and good standing reports of the other bar(s) in which corporate counsel registrant applicants are already admitted. While we know the importance of carefully checking each applicant’s records, we also know that previous bars have also performed that work and the re-recital of such information as past housing from law school and college years may not add much to the board’s consideration of an applicant if it can simply be presumed from the previous bars’ admission records and may cost the bar lots of useless administrative time and inconvenience rechecking data that’s already been verified elsewhere. … Relatedly, we suggest that corporate counsel whose applications are made to the VBBE under this rule be allowed to continue to engage in practice while their application is being processed. …

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