June 10, 2008
Virginia Poverty Law Center Director Named Legal Aid Lawyer of the Year
James W. “Jay” Speer, executive director of the Virginia Poverty Law Center, has been selected for the 2008 Virginia Legal Aid Award by the Virginia State Bar’s Committee on Access to Legal Services.
Speer has devoted most of his career to serving low-income people, most recently through the Poverty Law Center, which provides advocacy on poverty issues of statewide importance and trains lawyers and clients on the legal rights of Virginia’s poor.
In 2000, he identified payday lending as a dangerous practice for low- and moderate-income people, and since then he has led challenges to the practices. His advocacy efforts at the Virginia General Assembly and in Washington, D.C., continue — particularly in predatory lending practices involving car title lending and abusive mortgage loans.
He also works closely with intervention specialists for Housing Opportunities Made Equal who are assisting clients victimized by predatory lending and foreclosure rescue scams.
State Sen. A. Donald McEachin of Richmond — one of several persons to nominate Speer for the award — wrote, “In my years of working with Jay, I am continually impressed and even overwhelmed by his dedication, his work ethic, his knowledge and, perhaps most of all, his compassion for his clients. … He brings all sides together and encourages everyone in the room to take a second and different look.”
Speer received a bachelor’s degree in foreign affairs from the University of Virginia and a law degree from the College of William and Mary. After four years in solo practice in Richmond, he became a staff attorney at the Central Virginia Legal Aid Society in 1987. He has been at the Poverty Law Center since 2000.
The Virginia Legal Aid Award recognizes employees of legal aid societies licensed by the Virginia State Bar who have demonstrated innovation and creativity in advocacy, experience and excellence in service, and an impact beyond his or her program’s service area.
The award will be presented during a luncheon at the VSB Annual Meeting Friday, June 20, 2008, at the Orion’s Roof restaurant at the Cavalier Hotel-Oceanfront in Virginia Beach.