An essay on the Virginia bar from 1870 to 1900 rnust begin with a definition of a Virginia attorney-at-law. In 1870 and for the next twenty-five years, a Virginia lawyer was "any person" over the age of twenty-one of "honest demeanor" who had been examined for fitness and licensed to practice law by any two judges of Virginia courts of record. Having been licensed, each attorney must have then "qualified" to practice in each court in which he wished to appear. This was done by swearing in that court to demean himself honestly in the practice of law and to support the Commonwealth.
W. Hamilton Bryson & E. Lee Shepard, The Virginia Bar, 1870-1900, in The New High Priests: Lawyers in Post-Civil War America, 171-185 (1984).