The D.C. and Virginia attorneys at McClanahan Powers, PLLC, routinely act as local counsel for businesses, law firms, and out-of-state or non-litigation attorneys. Our attorneys are successful and experienced litigators in all Virginia and D.C. courts, both at the State and Federal levels. We act as a resource to general counsel for a business, a law firm, or an attorney to assist them in navigating the procedures of the Court systems, local customs and practices, and pro hac vice applications and procedures. We have acted as local counsel for the general counsel of smaller companies and some of the largest fortune 500 companies. Besides, we have assisted out-of-state attorneys who wished to maintain a close relationship with the client, but they were not licensed. We, also, have helped some of the biggest law firms in the United States that either did not have a Virginia presence or that did have a Virginia presence but wanted a firm that had a strong reputation and expertise in the court systems and technical procedures.
Concerns When Retaining Local Counsel
Our approach is to be as little as our principle counsel needs. We can handle simple procedural assessments or filings draft and prepare the pleadings, briefs, and discovery if required. We will be present and/or available at all appearances and will do our best to accommodate the schedule of our principle counsel. We forward all correspondences or notices from the Court immediately and internally docket dates for redundancy protections for our clients and principal counsel.
Efficiency and Cost Control Is Critical
It can be unnerving to principle counsel or the client to hire local counsel. They worry that their costs will skyrocket, and communication or strategic delays may occur. This is what separates the litigation attorneys of McClanahan Powers. We are experienced in this relationship and in managing efficiencies. We closely follow the lead of principle counsel. Our adaptive approach to meeting their needs means that we do no more than is required by the Court rules and our principle. We are highly technical and respond promptly. This means that our principle attorneys get the information they need quickly and in the format and/or contribution they have requested. We are here to be a resource to you so that your client can succeed.
Virginia and D.C. Court Systems
With offices in Northern Virginia and the District of Columbia, the firm assists a variety of corporate counsel, law firms, and attorneys nationwide as Virginia local counsel in litigation through multiple court systems in the Virginia and Washington D.C. area. There are some very different structures and systems between D.C. and Virginia and their respective State and Federal procedures. This is true even for their pro hac vice requirements and the Court’s requirements as to the involvement of local counsel.
Eastern District of Virginia
This is one of the two federal courts in Virginia, both appeal to the 4th Circuit. This Court is famously known as the ‘rocket docket.’ The discovery rules are rigidly adhered to, with extremely limited continuances and extensions. This can be a great place to litigate and take advantage of opposing parties unfamiliar with the rules and systems. For example, discovery objections have a 15 day response time, even though the actual answers have a 30 day response period. Failure to timely provide objections may act as a waiver of objections. This is an example of how the little details can cause chaos and anxiety for unfamiliar counsel. The Court is broken down into four divisions: Alexandria Division, Richmond Division, Newport News Division, and Norfolk Division. The venue is typically decided based on the underlying county contained within the division. However, in patent litigation cases, the Courts have the policy to shift the filing to a different division, based on who had it next. As a result, you may file in Alexandria in patent cases but have the case transferred to the Norfolk Division.
In addition, each of the divisions has some differences in their general procedures and requirements. However, the local counsel rules are well laid out, and the pro hac vice procedures. In this Court, local counsel must be on all Court filings and be present at any hearing before the Court.
Western District of Virginia
This is the second of the two federal courts in Virginia. This Court is not as lightning fast as the Eastern District, but it still moves cases through at pace. They have their own local rules, and their general procedures for local counsel rules pro hac vice procedures are nearly identical to the Eastern District. In this Court, local counsel must be on all Court filings and be present at any hearing before the Court.
This Court is divided into multiple divisions and courthouses, including Abingdon, Big Stone Gap, Charlottesville, Danville, Harrisonburg, Lynchburg, and Roanoke. These courthouses have more minor rules and requirements of the attorney practicing, which should be considered and followed by counsel.
Virginia State Courts
Virginia State Courts have two different systems. They have a smaller court known as the Virginia General District Court, which has a jurisdictional limit of $25,000. They have a Virginia Circuit Court with unlimited jurisdiction and may grant injunctive relief. Depending on the circumstances of the case, there can be strategic advantages to using one over another, which is even more accurate when you factor in the possibility of filing or removing to Federal Court. Analyzing and assessing the best Court for the case is something that the Virginia litigation attorneys would work with principle counsel to determine.
In addition, there are two separate higher-level courts in Virginia, the Virginia Court of Appeal and the Virginia Supreme Court. The majority of civil cases will find themselves in the Virginia Supreme Court. Still, there are occasions when the nature or type of proceeding will require a preliminary appeal to the Virginia Court of Appeals first. Again, this is an assessment that the litigation attorneys of McClanahan Powers can work with clients in determining if they need Virginia local counsel.
Virginia General District Court
Virginia general district courts, commonly referred to as GDC, are courts not of record, meaning that unless specifically requested, arranged, and paid for by the requesting party, there is no court reporter to record or transcribe any of the oral proceedings. As a result, GDC has limited discovery and is often less expensive and a much faster process than circuit court.
GDC can hear limited types of cases involving criminal law, including traffic violations, misdemeanors, preliminary hearings, and civil law matters. In addition, GDC has the exclusive authority to hear civil matters with civil claims of $4,500 or less in monetary damages and share authority with Virginia circuit courts to hear cases between $4,500 and $25,000.
Besides satisfying the statutory requirements, to file a case in GDC, an individual or an attorney, if the filing party is a business or if the individual has retained counsel, completes a Warrant in Debt and provides the requisite filing fees, which includes service of the civil warrant, often by a sheriff or deputy onto the other party. Once the Warrant in Debt has been served, the parties must come to the court for the return hearing to set the trial date. At the return hearing, either party may request pleadings, including a Bill of Particulars for the Plaintiff and a Grounds of Defense for the Defendant. The Bill of Particulars will provide information regarding the nature and extent of the claim. The party served will answer the Bill of Particulars with Grounds of Defense, illustrating how the party served intends to defend the claim. Unless settled prior, the case usually takes no more than a few hours to litigate before the GDC judge. GDC cases do not have juries, and the judge decides all cases.
There is an absolute right of appeal in GDC to an applicable Virginia circuit court if the civil claim exceeds $50 of the judgment, provided that specific procedures and deadlines are met. Such appeal is heard by the applicable circuit court de novo, meaning that the circuit will hear the case as if the case was being heard for the first time, showing little to no deference to the judge’s decision in GDC.
It is essential to consult skilled litigation. Trial attorney for assistance with a GDC matter to assist not only in the preparation of a Warrant in Debt, Bill of Particulars or Grounds of Defense, as applicable, but more importantly as many GDC cases are won or lost under Virginia’s Rules of Evidence and the admissibility of such evidence.
Virginia Circuit Court
In addition to hearing cases appealed from GDC, as well as from the juvenile and domestic relations district court, and sharing authority with GDC involving claims between $4,500 and $25,000, Virginia circuit courts hear all civil matters with claims of more than $25,000 as well as criminal matters involving felonies.
Besides satisfying the statutory requirements and procedures, to file a case in Virginia circuit court, the filing party files a complaint (called a petition in some circumstances) containing specific and required information stating a claim. The complaint will also include any necessary exhibits.
Unlike GDC, there is no absolute right of appeal from circuit court decisions, except for cases involving injunctions in domestic relations cases and some administrative matters. Further, a notice of appeal must be filed with the applicable circuit court within a specified time limit to appeal the court’s decision to the Virginia Court of Appeals.
It is vital to consult skilled litigation and trial attorneys for Virginia circuit court matters. Failure to follow procedural formalities may result in a loss of claim for a plaintiff or default judgment for a defendant.
District of Columbia
The District of Columbia is home to a large volume of attorneys, partially due to its transient population and because the bar has long had a friendly wave in the procedure for out-of-state counsel. However, we have found that many D.C. lawyers are not active litigators, and even those that are, have never actually litigated in D.C. As a result, we see more minor pro hac vice procedures in this Court but still, find a need amongst attorneys for guidance and assessment of this Court’s systems and processes. D.C. Court has one state-level Court known as D.C. Superior Court and has one federal Court, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. The D.C. Superior Court appeals to the District of Columbia Court of Appeals, and the USDC-DC appeals to the D.C. Circuit Court (not the 4th Circuit).
D.C. Superior Court
This is an extremely high volume Court. As a result, you may encounter some delays, and you need to be prepared to navigate them or utilize them. This Court is filled with highly knowledgeable and experienced judges, who generally take a tenor of letting you develop and progress your cases. These issues can be somewhat from judge to judge, but we have typically found that continuances and extensions are more common, and the Court is more prone to grant them. We always recommend completing all filings and discoveries within the prescribed time, but it is helpful to know that the Court may be accommodating if the need arises.
Unlike the Virginia system, the Court does have fast-track procedures, but there is not a separately designated small matters court. As a result, you will have access to a jury and the full breadth of discovery tools, even in minor cases.
United States District Court for the District of Columbia
Another great courthouse. Being home to D.C., these judges and court staff see some of the world’s most complex and interesting cases. They are efficient, but it does not move at the speed of EDVA. The Court does permit pro hac vice. However, with the ease of waiving into D.C., there is a slight focus on becoming licensed versus repeated pro hac vice application. This is true of many court systems, but D.C. does make this a realistic offering to consider. There are no subdivisions, but the Court does have its own local rules and procedures. As D.C. local counsel, our attorneys will work with you to navigate these procedures and strategic assessments.