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Located along the southern edge of the U.S. capital, Virginia is home to over 29,000 lawyers. Since any attorney that has been licensed to practice law in another state for at least five years is allowed to join the District of Columbia Bar without any further examination, many attorneys that work in Washington, D.C., choose to become licensed in Virginia first. This dual bar license possibility allows for Virginia and D.C. attorneys to better serve their clients since they are able to cover more territory, as well as contributing to the popularity of Virginia as the initial licensing state for new law school graduates. Many of Virginia’s lawyers also have dual membership in Virginia’s two statewide general-purpose bar associations. Virginia is the only state with both a mandatory state bar association, the Virginia State Bar, and a voluntary state bar association, the Virginia Bar Association.
There are approximately 120 bar associations present in Virginia. The vast majority of the bar associations in Virginia are general-purpose local bar associations that serve the whole of the area’s legal community regardless of the individual members’ practice areas, such as the Virginia Beach Bar Association and the Salem-Roanoke County Bar Association. However, there are also a number of regional bar associations that exist for the benefit of certain practice areas and minority groups within the local legal community. Many regions in Virginia are home to local bar associations for gender and ethnic minorities, including as Greater Peninsula Women’s Bar Association and Northern Virginia Black Attorneys Association. Similar to the regional minority bar associations, regional specialty bar associations, including the Tidewater Bankruptcy Bar Association and the Richmond Chapter of the Federal Bar Association, serve only a small portion of that region’s legal community, but the membership limitation of these kinds of bar associations is based on the type of law practiced by its members, not minority status.
Aside from the two general-purpose bar associations that cover the entire state, there are also a number of statewide bar associations that have more specific purposes. There are a number of ethnic and gender minority bar associations in Virginia that exist to support the lawyers in Virginia that are a part of that minority group, including the Old Dominion Bar Association and the Hispanic Bar Association of Virginia. Also, several different practice groups in Virginia have their own bar associations encompassing the entire state, such as the Virginia Trial Lawyers Association for litigators and the Virginia Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.