The Future of the Practice of Law: Can Alternative Business Structures for the Legal Profession Improve Access to Legal Services?

James M. McCauley

Nationwide, law school admissions have plummeted to levels not seen in years. From 2010 to 2015, applications were down by 38 percent and down by nearly one-half over the last eight years. Excluding perhaps some first-tier law schools, on the average, law schools are only placing about half of their new graduates in jobs that require a law degree and a law license. The American Bar Association (“ABA”) mandated disclosure policies which forced law schools to reveal that they pay stipends to graduates to work short-term jobs in an effort to beef up their placement statistics.

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Preface

Stephanie Serhan, Annual Survey Editor

The University of Richmond Law Review proudly presents the thirty-first issue of the Annual Survey of Virginia Law 2016. The Annual Survey is the only legal publication that provides an update to practitioners regarding recent developments in Virginia law. Since 1985, the Annual Survey has been a guiding tool for practitioners and students to stay abreast of the recent legislative, judicial, and administrative developments in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

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IN MEMORIAM: Justice Antonin Scalia and the Constitution’s Golden Thread

As Americans, it is our duty to remember United States Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia‘s unwavering commitment to the words of our Constitution—their true meaning as the Founders deliberately wrote them. Words have meaning. Otherwise, what purpose do they serve? Chief Justice John Marshall, the great Federalist and Virginian, wrote, “As men . . . generally employ the words which most directly and aptly express the ideas they intend to convey, the enlightened patriots who framed our Constitution, and the people who adopted it, must be understood to have employed words in their natural sense, and to have intended what they have said.”

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Civil Practice and Procedure

Continuing in the rich vein of prior Annual Surveys, this article examines developments in Virginia civil procedure and practice in the past year. The survey includes a discussion of the relevant decisions from the Supreme Court of Virginia, changes to applicable rules of practice or procedure, and new legislation, which will likely affect the practice of a civil practitioner in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

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Corporate and Business Law

Thanks to a 2016 amendment to VNSCA, a nonstock corporation‘s board of directors can approve an action that does not require member approval by less than unanimous written consent if it is authorized in the nonstock corporation‘s articles of incorporation and, if no director objects to the proposed action, within ten days. To permit directors an opportunity to object, the corporation must give written notice to all directors at least ten days prior to the action.

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Criminal Law and Procedure

In Herrington v. Commonwealth, the Supreme Court of Virginia considered whether the Commonwealth had the authority to obtain an indictment on a different charge than the one certified to the grand jury. The defendant was initially arrested and charged with possession of a controlled substance with intent to sell or distribute. At the preliminary hearing on the charge, the district court found ?no probable cause to support the element of intent to sell or distribute. The district court therefore reduced the charge to simple possession of a controlled substance and certified that charge to the grand jury. The grand jury, nonetheless, indicted the defendant with the original distribution charge. The defendant unsuccessfully attempted to quash the indictment in circuit court.

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Family Law

In the past year, Virginia courts have addressed a range of family law questions—new and old—that reflect the changing landscape of families and marriage. Questions related to same-sex marriage and divorce have begun to appear on Virginia court dockets, including an important case the Supreme Court of Virginia decided this year with respect to same-sex couples cohabiting and the termination of spousal support. Family law courts also saw shifts in gender norms—wives paying spousal support to their husbands and fathers being awarded physical custody of their children. These legal questions tested the limits of statutory language and helped to expand the legal understanding of marriage, family, and parenthood. In addition, recurring questions about entry into and exit from marriage persisted. Courts addressed varied claims relating to marriage validity, equitable distribution, separate property, spousal and child support, and visitation rights. This brief article provides an overview of some of the most salient cases, and those cases that will most likely have a lasting impact on this state‘s family law jurisprudence.

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Taxation

This article reviews significant recent developments in the laws affecting Virginia state and local taxation. Each section covers legislative activity, judicial decisions, and selected opinions or pronouncements from the Virginia Department of Taxation (the “Tax Department”) and the Virginia Attorney General over the past year. Part I of this article addresses state taxes. Part II of this article covers local taxes, including real and tangible personal property, natural gas consumption tax, recordation tax, and administrative local tax procedures. The overall purpose of this article is to provide Virginia tax and general practitioners with a concise overview of the recent developments in Virginia taxation that will most likely impact them. However, this article does not discuss many of the numerous technical legislative changes to Title 58.1 of the Virginia Code covering taxation.

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Wills, Trusts, and Estates

The 2016 General Assembly of Virginia made substantial changes in the augmented estate rights of surviving spouses. It also modified and codified the rules governing powers of appointment. Other legislation affecting wills, trusts, and estates included clarifications and technical corrections relating to such subjects as creditors’ claims to life insurance and annuities, courtcreated trusts, protection of adults from exploitation, creditor protection for residential property, unclaimed assets, guardianships, and nonstock corporation procedure. Five decisions of the Supreme Court of Virginia addressed fiduciary conflicts, tenancies by the entirety, lost wills, contract rights in residences, and nocontest clauses.

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Foreclosure of a Deed of Trust in Virginia

Home ownership is a cornerstone of success in America. People seek a stable job, a great marriage, 2.5 kids, and a brick house with a white picket fence. Those who don‘t have that life, dream of it. That is why it is called ?The American Dream.? Home ownership is a sign of stability and community. An owner has the opportunity to accumulate wealth in the form of equity. The mortgage market is inseparably commingled with the overall well-being of the national economy. The state of the housing market is simultaneously an indicator of and a contributor to the health of the economy. When foreclosures rise to unhealthy levels, it hinders the recovery of the economy as a whole.

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