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Arlington Losing Millions Due to Restrictive Va. Lawyer Rules

Arlington is missing out on millions of dollars worth of annual tax revenue because of overly restrictive rules governing how lawyers are admitted to the Virginia Bar, according to a new report by Arlington Economic Development.

AED says that Arlington could be a very attractive location for major law firms. After all, real estate rates in Arlington are significantly lower than K Street and the other prime DC environs currently favored by large firms. Plus, a higher concentration of lawyers live in Arlington than the District, according to AED.

However, a tough written exam is required for admission into the Virginia Bar, even for lawyers already licensed in Florida, California, Maryland and, in many cases, DC. By contrast, the DC Bar only requires a simple application to admit lawyers from states like Florida, California and Maryland. AED says that gives DC firms a big recruiting advantage over Virginia firms, and precludes Arlington from serious consideration as a destination for major law firms.

Membership in the Virginia Bar is required in order to practice law in the Commonwealth.

AED is calling on Virginia’s Board of Bar Examiners to consider ways to adjust the rules, which are set by the Virginia Supreme Court but administered by the Board.

“Both Arlington County and the Commonwealth of Virginia would have a significant positive net fiscal impact from some adjustments to the rules governing admission to membership in the Virginia Bar,” AED said in its report.

The organization estimates that if Arlington could attract one out of every five DC firms with leases expiring over the next ten years, it could bring a tax windfall: nearly $4 million per year for Arlington, and $500,000 per year for the state.

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