Principles of Professionalism


“The Supreme Court of Virginia endorses the attached Principles of Professionalism for Virginia Lawyers prepared by the Virginia Bar Association Commission on Professionalism. Having been unanimously endorsed by Virginia’s statewide bar organizations, the Principles articulate standards of civility to which all Virginia lawyers should aspire. The Principles of Professionalism shall not serve as a basis for disciplinary action or for civil liability. We encourage the widest possible dissemination of these Principles.”

Leroy Rountree Hassell, Sr.
Former Chief Justice, Supreme Court of Virginia


Virginia can take special pride in the important role its lawyers have played in American history. From Thomas Jefferson to Oliver Hill, Virginia lawyers have epitomized our profession's highest ideals. Without losing sight of what lawyers do for their clients and for the public, lawyers should also focus on how they perform their duties. In their very first professional act, all Virginia lawyers pledge to demean themselves "professionally and courteously." Lawyers help their clients, the institutions with which they deal and themselves when they treat everyone with respect and courtesy. These Principles of Professionalism serve as a reminder of how Virginia lawyers have acted in the past and should act in the future.


In my conduct toward everyone with whom I deal, I should:

  • Remember that I am part of a self-governing profession, and that my actions and demeanor reflect upon my profession.
  • Act at all times with professional integrity, so that others will know that my word is my bond.
  • Avoid all bigotry, discrimination, or prejudice.
  • Treat everyone as I want to be treated — with respect and courtesy.
  • Act as a mentor for less experienced lawyers and as a role model for future generations of lawyers.
  • Contribute my skills, knowledge and influence in the service of my community.
  • Encourage those I supervise to act with the same professionalism to which I aspire.

In my conduct toward my clients, I should:

  • Act with diligence and dedication — tempered with, but never compromised by, my professional conduct toward others.
  • Act with respect and courtesy.
  • Explain to clients that my courteous conduct toward others does not reflect a lack of zeal in advancing their interests, but rather is more likely to successfully advance their interests.

In my conduct toward courts and other institutions with which I deal, I should:

  • Treat all judges and court personnel with respect and courtesy.
  • Be punctual in attending all court appearances and other scheduled events.
  • Avoid any conduct that offends the dignity or decorum of any courts or other institutions, such as inappropriate displays of emotion or unbecoming language directed at the courts or any other participants.
  • Explain to my clients that they should also act with respect and courtesy when dealing with courts and other institutions.

In my conduct toward opposing counsel, I should:

  • Treat both opposing counsel and their staff with respect and courtesy.
  • Avoid ad hominem attacks, recognizing that in nearly every situation opposing lawyers are simply serving their clients as I am trying to serve my clients.
  • Avoid reciprocating any unprofessional conduct by opposing counsel, explaining to my clients that such behavior harms rather than advances the clients' interests.
  • Cooperate as much as possible on procedural and logistical matters, so that the clients' and lawyers' efforts can be directed toward the substance of disputes or disagreements.
  • Cooperate in scheduling any discovery, negotiations, meetings, closings, hearings or other litigation or transactional events, accommodating opposing counsels' schedules whenever possible.
  • Agree whenever possible to opposing counsels' reasonable requests for extensions of time that are consistent with my primary duties to advance my clients' interests.
  • Notify opposing counsel of any schedule changes as soon as possible.
  • Return telephone calls, e-mails and other communications as promptly as I can, even if we disagree about the subject matter of the communication, resolving to disagree without being disagreeable.
  • Be punctual in attending all scheduled events.
  • Resist being affected by any ill feelings opposing clients may have toward each other, remembering that any conflict is between the clients and not between the lawyers.