Conference of Local Bar Associations

P. George Eliades II, chair


The Conference of Local Bar Associations Executive Committee enjoyed another successful year. Three Solo & Small-Firm Practitioner Forums were presented and the Supreme Court once again participated in these events with town hall meetings at all three forums. The forum in Abingdon featured a Regional Bench-Bar Conference with the participation of the 28th, 29th and 30th judicial circuits. 

This year’s first Solo & Small-Firm Practitioner Forum was presented at The Smithfield Center in Smithfield, Virginia, on March 28, 2013. The forum attracted 150 attendees, who were provided with five hours of live ethics CLE programming and lunch all free of charge. The topics included Trust Accounting and Recent Developments in the Law presented by James M. McCauley, ethics counsel, Virginia State Bar, Ethics in the Digital Era presented by Sharon D. Nelson, president-elect, Virginia State Bar and John W. Simek, vice pesident, Sensei Enterprises Inc., and Lawyers Helping Lawyers, presented by James E. Leffler, M.S., executive director.  In addition to the educational programming, the attendees were afforded the opportunity to speak with Justice LeRoy F. Millette Jr. in a town hall meeting. The forum was also presented at the Stonewall Jackson Hotel and Conference Center in Staunton, Virginia, May 23, 2013 with 194 attendees and a town hall meeting led by Senior Justice Lawrence L. Koontz Jr.  The Conference of Local Bar Associations (CLBA) is most grateful for the enthusiastic reception offered by the local bars and the unwavering support of the Virginia Supreme Court and Virginia State Bar leadership in presenting these forums.

On April 26, 2013, the forum was unique in that it was presented in conjunction with a Regional Bench-Bar Conference at the Southwest Virginia Higher Education Center in Abingdon, Virginia. There were 274 attendees representing more than one-half of all judges and 45 percent of all lawyers in the 28th, 29th and 30th judicial circuits. The morning was dedicated to the Solo & Small-Firm Practitioner Forum and three hours of live ethics CLE were offered to the attendees. The afternoon was dedicated to the Regional Bench-Bar Conference during which attendees were offered break-out sessions with topics including Introduction, Authentication and Admissibility of Documents and Business Records, Recent Developments in State and Federal Criminal Law and Procedure, e-Discovery and Guardian ad litem Best Practices. These programs offered an additional six hours of live CLE. There was also a town hall meeting led by Chief Justice Cynthia D. Kinser, Justice Elizabeth A. McClanahan, and Judge Teresa M. Chafin. Kevin Martingayle served as moderator.  The McCammon Group co-sponsored the lunch.

The Virginia State Bar subsidized fully the cost of the Regional Bench-Bar Conference with the understanding that the local bench and bar would organize and produce the conference annually thereafter.  The local judges and bar leaders selected the topics for the program and agreed upon the speakers for the sessions.  The VSB endeavored to ensure that ownership of the conference remained with the local bench and bar.

In addition to the annual recurrence of the conference in Abingdon, the CLBA anticipates participating in the presentation of a similar conference in Danville, Virginia, in March 2014.  Just as they did in Abingdon, the VSB and CLBA propose to underwrite and assist in the production of a Regional Bench-Bar Conference for the circuits surrounding Danville.  In return, it is asked only that the local bar associations encourage participation by their members and that they commit to planning and sponsoring a conference in the following year. The responses received from the chief judges of the local courts has been uniformly positive.

Thanks to the vision and tireless efforts of VSB President David Harless, the Regional Bench-Bar Conference satisfies several needs. First, it fosters and promotes greater communication between lawyers and between lawyers and the bench regarding issues of regional concern to the courts and practitioners.  Further, it attempts to fulfill the ever-increasing need for new lawyers to have access to clinical and practice management training and instruction from experienced judges and lawyers. Lastly, it alleviates the need to devote entire days to travel to more urban areas to satisfy “live” CLE requirements. It is most gratifying to participate in this project and to be a part of what is destined to be President Harless’ proud legacy. 

In addition to the Solo & Small-Firm Practitioner Forums and Regional Bench-Bar Conference, the CLBA conducted its annual Bar Leaders Institute at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens in Richmond on Monday, March 1, 2013.  Broad topics included media relations, fund raising, new IRS 990 compliance issues, and creating a 501(c)(3) entity. In addition, smaller break-out session topics included use of effective communications and use of social media by small bars, attracting young lawyers to the bar through mentor programs, and establishing a bench-bar conference.  The day ended with a one-hour CLE/Ethics program on Ethics for the Bar Leader featuring Thomas A. Spahn, Bernard J. Dimuro, James M. McCauley, and Barbara A. Williams. 

After receiving and evaluating many fine nominations, the CLBA announced the winners of the Local Bar Leader of the Year, Awards of Merit, and Certificates of Achievement. In recognition of their important contributions to the bench, bar and public, Polly Chong of the Greater Peninsula Women’s Bar Association and Lori D. Thompson of the Roanoke Bar Association were named Local Bar Leaders of the Year.  Seven Awards of Merit and five Certificates of Achievement were awarded reflecting the quality and diversity of local, specialty and statewide bars. These awards are intended to encourage greater service to the public and the profession and to give local and specialty bar leaders the opportunity to learn from the programs of other bars. 

The Awards of Merit and Local Bar Leader of the Year Awards were presented during the Annual Meeting and Breakfast of the CLBA on June 14, 2013. Sharon D. Nelson, president-elect of the VSB, shared her goals for the upcoming bar year. In addition, we were most pleased that Cynthia D. Kinser, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Virginia, was available to join us for breakfast. 

The 2013-14 CLBA officers and members were elected at the CLBA’s annual meeting as well. The officers are as follows: Eugene M. Elliott Jr, chair; Mary M. Benzinger, chair-elect; George W. Nolley, secretary; Jack W. Burtch Jr., treasurer; and P. George Eliades II, immediate past chair. At-large members are Barbara S. Anderson, Sandra T. Chinn-Gilstrap, Rebecca E. Duffie, Shelly R. James, David W. Lannetti, B. Alan McGraw, Petula A. Metzler, Juan E. Milanes, and Renae R. Patrick.

The So You’re 18 handbook was updated and reprinted for distribution to schools, departments of social services, juvenile detention centers, and other groups/organizations as requested. In addition, the pamphlets were presented as part of driver’s licensing ceremonies in J&DR courts in fourteen venues across the state. 

The CLBA continually seeks to improve its efforts to better serve the needs of Virginia's local and specialty bar associations, to identify best practices, and inform bar leaders of developments and trends on issues of importance to association leadership.

Updated: Jul 16, 2013