Virginia State Bar

An agency of the Supreme Court of Virginia

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Pro Bono / Access to Legal Services

News and Information

January 6, 2017

Call for Nominations - Virginia Legal Aid Award

Since 1992 at the Virginia State Bar’s Annual Meeting in Virginia Beach, an outstanding legal aid attorney has received the Virginia Legal Aid Award. Established by the bar’s Special Committee on Access to Legal Services, the award is presented at a luncheon for interested members of the legal aid and pro bono communities.

Past recipients have included program directors Henry L. Woodward, Henry W. McLaughlin III, Dale W. Pittman, John E. Whitfield, Alex R. Gulotta, William L. Botts III, James W. Speer, and Larry T. Harley. Attorneys Martin D. Wegbreit, Randi H. Blumenson, Steven L. Myers, Marilynn C. Goss, Mary C. Bauer, David D. Beidler, Renae R. Patrick, Nancy J. Glickman, Jill A. Hanken, Andrew K. Block Jr., Freddie L. Goode, Kathryn L. Pryor, Abigail Turner, R. Peyton Whiteley, John Rellick, Christine E. Marra, and Jeremy White have also been honored. Simon Sandoval-Moshenberg received the award in 2016. This year’s event is scheduled for Friday, June 16, 2017.

The deadline for bar receipt of nominations and all supporting material is 5 p.m. Friday, March 24, 2017. Please submit all nominations to Access to Legal Services Committee, c/o Karl A. Doss, Virginia State Bar, 111 East Main Street, Suite 700, Richmond, Virginia 23219-0026. Direct questions to (804) 775-0522, Fax at (804) 775-0501, or e-mail

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January 6, 2017

Call for Nominations - Oliver White Hill Law Student Pro Bono Award

The Oliver White Hill Law Student Pro Bono Award was inaugurated by the Virginia State Bar in February 2002. Established to honor extraordinary law student achievement in the areas of pro bono publico and under-compensated public service work in Virginia, the Hill Law Student Award is administered by the Bar’s Special Committee on Access to Legal Services.

Presentation of the award is reserved for extraordinary achievements of outstanding students. The Access Committee will annually review nominations to determine if there should be a designee. This year’s award will be presented at the VSB’s Annual Meeting in June.

The deadline for receipt of nominations* by the Bar is 5 p.m., Friday, March 24, 2017.

more information

March 17, 2017

Registration now open for webinar: Who Pays for Nursing Home Care and What Happens When No One Pays?

April 18, 2017

1:00 PM EDT

Please register for the final webinar in the VSB/LINC pro bono webinar series Serious Illness, the Law, and Pro Bono Service, Part 6: Who Pays for Nursing Home Care and What Happens When No One Pays? at:

“Who pays for nursing home care and what happens when no one pays? This session will briefly sort through when Medicare covers nursing home care, and when Medicaid pays for nursing home care, focusing on some Medicaid issues unique to coverage of long term care, such as pre-admission screening, spousal impoverishment rules, transfer of assets, etc. The rest of the session will focus on defenses to an involuntary discharge action against a nursing home resident when the nursing home hasn’t been paid.”

Kathy Pryor of the Virginia Poverty Law Center will be the presenter for this webinar, which is the last session in the VSB-LINC Pro Bono Webinar series. There is no cost to attend this webinar; however, in exchange for the free CLE credits, attendees are asked to certify that they either will accept a pro bono referral from LINC or their local legal aid organization or make a financial donation supporting them.

This program has been approved for 1.5 hours of MCLE credit.

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

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May 11, 2017

UVa Student to Receive Oliver Hill Pro Bono Award

Amber A. Strickland, a third-year law student at the University of Virginia, is the 2017 recipient of the Oliver White Hill Law Student Pro Bono Award from the Virginia State Bar.

In nominating Strickland for the award, Josh Bowers, professor of law and co-director of the Program in Law and Public Service at UVa wrote: “I can say confidently that she is one of the finest all-around students and human beings that I have come across in eleven years of teaching. She has more integrity and maturity and a deeper commitment to public interest law than just about anyone I know.”

“Amber is a pioneer, a leader, and a team player – a student who will leave this institution substantially better off than it was when she arrived.  And Amber will be a lawyer of the same conscience, character, and caliber.”

Strickland has volunteered more than 200 hours of pro bono services while attending law school, while also maintaining an impressive commitment to an array of public service projects. Kimberly Carpenter Emery, assistant dean for pro bono at UVa, noted in recommending Strickland for the award that she contributed more than 125 hours of pro bono work to two international organizations alone – the International Law Institute: African Centre for Legal Excellence in Kampala, Uganda, and the Legal resources Centre in Johannesburg, South Africa. She is a leader in the Black Law Students Association at UVa, where she coordinates events with the local Big Brothers/Big Sisters program. She is active with the Virginia Innocence Project, the Virginia National Trial Advocacy Team, and the Virginia Journal of International Law. She has interned at the US Department of Justice Civil Rights Division and with the American Civil Liberties Union Racial Justice Program in New York City.

Next year, Strickland will begin her career as an assistant district attorney in New York County, New York.

The award, named for a late Virginia civil rights litigator, recognizes a law student’s commitment to uncompensated or minimally compensated pro bono work and other public service.

The Hill award will be presented by the VSB Special Committee on Access to Legal Services during the VSB Annual Meeting in Virginia Beach on June 16. 

May 12, 2017

Angela Ciolfi Receives Legal Aid Award from Virginia State Bar

Angela A. Ciolfi, litigation director at the Legal Aid Justice Center in Charlottesville, is the recipient of the Virginia Legal Aid Award for 2017. Ciolfi is the first lawyer to win both the Oliver White Hill Law Student Pro Bono Award, in 2003 when she was a student at the University of Virginia School of Law, and the Legal Aid Award.

Mary Bauer, executive director of the Legal Aid Justice Center, nominated Ciolfi for the award. “Angela stands out for her strong commitment to our clients, her sharp analytical abilities, and her unusually strong work ethic. She is one of the smartest, hardest working, most courageous and effective children’s rights advocates and public interest lawyers that I know,” Bauer wrote.

Ciolfi’s involvement with legislative and legal matters affecting children is extensive. She has been a leader in the effort to stop the automatic suspension of drivers licenses for failure to pay legal costs; she fought to end the use of suspensions as a penalty for truancy; she secured legislation requiring the publication of disciplinary data desegregated by race, disability, and gender, bringing hidden disciplinary disparities out into the open.

Ciolfi’s work with the McAuliffe Administration led to the “Classrooms not Courtrooms” initiative. Subsequently, a law was passed that eliminated a statutory requirement that all state grant-funded school resource officers “enforce school board rules and codes of student conduct.” She has fought proposed cuts to public education funding and she persuaded the Virginia Board of Education to make Virginia the first state to add graduation rate benchmarks to its accountability system for schools.

In addition to her legislative work, Ciolfi has represented multiple children in the juvenile justice system and has been a strong advocate for the JustChildren Program.

UVa Professor of Law Leslie Kendrick wrote, “It is clear to me that Angela could do anything, anywhere. With the hours she works and the leadership she shows, at a firm she would be clear partnership material. With the knowledge and communication skills she has, she could teach full-time and win every teaching award on the books. She has had other opportunities to do other things. She has made a conscious decision: legal aid is her calling. This is where she wants to be. And we are all better off for it.”

James E. Ryan, dean of the faculty at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, wrote that, “Angela perfectly embodies the values, skills, and talents this award is meant to celebrate: innovation, creativity, passion, courage, excellence, impact, and, above all, an unwavering and unbroken commitment to her clients and to the public interest.”

The Legal Aid Award recognizes lawyers employed by legal aid societies licensed by the VSB. Recipients are chosen for their advocacy, quality of service, and impact beyond their service area. Ciolfi will receive the award on June 16 at the Virginia State Bar Annual Meeting in Virginia Beach.

June 20, 2017

Call for Nominations - Frankie Muse Freeman Organizational Pro Bono Award

The Frankie Muse Freeman Organizational Pro Bono Award was established by the Special Committee on Access to Legal Services of the Virginia State Bar in 2016 to honor organizations that have made outstanding contributions in the area of pro bono legal services for the poor. Organizations that are eligible for the award may include, for example, law firms, corporate legal departments, nonprofits, faith-based organizations, local bar associations, court-based projects, and law school programs. The deadline for receipt of nominations is Friday, August 18, 2017. The award, a framed certificate, will be presented for the first time at a ceremony during the Virginia Pro Bono and Legal Aid Conference, Doubletree by Hilton Hotel, Charlottesville, VA.

more info

June 20, 2017

Call for Nominations - Lewis F. Powell Jr. Pro Bono Award

The Lewis F. Powell Jr. Pro Bono Award was established by the Special Committee on Access to Legal Services of the Virginia State Bar to honor those attorneys and attorney groups that have made outstanding pro bono contributions. The deadline for receipt of nominations is Friday, August 18, 2017. The award, a framed, limited-edition print of the painting Patrick Henry Arguing the Parson’s Cause, will be presented at a ceremony during the Virginia Pro Bono and Legal Aid Conference, Wednesday, October 18, 2017, at the Doubletree by Hilton Hotel in Charlottesville.

more info

July 25, 2017

Register Now for Free Seminar: Bridging the Justice Gap through Pro Bono

The Virginia State Bar Access to Justice Committee and the Old Dominion Bar Association are sponsoring a seminar with three MCLE hours pending entitled Bridging the Justice Gap through Pro Bono on September 12, 2017 in Richmond.

The seminar, which will be held at the Bank of America building in the third floor conference room will begin at 1:00 p.m. and cover topics including the misconceptions about pro bono, the Rules of Professional Conduct as they pertain to pro bono, and the ways lawyers may get involved with helping low income and modest means Virginians obtain access to justice.

Additional information about the seminar as well as registration materials may be found here.

Please contact Karl Doss at or 804-775-0522 for more information.

September 5, 2017

Texas Supreme Court Allows Out-of-State Lawyers to Help

The Texas court will give conditional approval to lawyers who are willing to provide pro bono services to victims of Hurricane Harvey.

The Texas Supreme Court’s emergency order and the required registration form may be found here.

December 20, 2017

VSB Welcomes Crista Gantz to the role of Access to Legal Services Director












Crista Whitman Gantz has joined the Virginia State Bar team as the new director of its Pro Bono / Access to Legal Services department. Her first day was Nov. 27.

Gantz’ department serves to support, promote, and further all access to justice initiatives in the commonwealth – and its new director brings a passion for service to the position.

“Every lawyer goes to law school with high hopes for impacting people in need,” she says. “That’s what drew me to access to legal services.”

Gantz is a 2007 graduate of T.C. Williams School of Law at the University of Richmond. She previously served for three years as the client services director with the Legal Information Network for Cancer (CancerLINC).

“LINC does really amazing work for a small, specific population – cancer patients and their families in the Greater Richmond area,” Gantz says. “I learned so much there.”

Prior to joining CancerLINC, she was an associate at LeClairRyan where she was involved in numerous volunteer and pro bono activities.

Gantz says she’s looking forward to having a wide impact on people in need – without going to court everyday. ““I think that’s one of my talents: energizing and fostering engagement,” she says. “I want people to care about the work and get involved. It’s the most important and compassionate thing we can do with our law degree.”

Gantz has been a frequent guest at VSB’s Access to Legal Service Committee meetings, has developed and presented at a number of pro bono trainings, and is a regular attendee at the Statewide Legal Aid Conference. She also is the author of the article “Lawyering for a Cause: Do Good and Feel Great” from the special October 2014 Pro Bono issue of Virginia Lawyer magazine. 

Outgoing Director Karl A. Doss accepted a position as deputy director at the Legal Services Corporation of Virginia, and his last day at the VSB was Dec. 15.

December 29, 2017

Supreme Court of Virginia Amends Emeritus Rule to Encourage Pro Bono Service

Effective March 1, 2018, the Supreme Court of Virginia approved changes to the rules governing emeritus status in the Virginia State Bar.

Among other things, the amendments to Paragraph 3(e) of Part 6, Section IV of the Rules of the Supreme Court of Virginia alter the number of years an attorney must have been engaged in active practice before becoming an emeritus member, and they abolish the requirement to practice under the direct supervision of legal aid attorneys.

The full rule changes are available for review here.

Only two state bar members had emeritus status for most of 2017. The changes are intended to ease the transition to emeritus membership for the purpose of encouraging more pro bono legal services.

February 28, 2018

Voluntary Pro Bono Reporting as Complement to Virginia Rule of Professional Conduct 6.1

Effective December 1, 2018, the Rules of the Supreme Court of Virginia, Part 6, Section IV, will include a new provision, Paragraph 22, that requests each active VSB member report their pro bono hours and/or financial contribution in support of pro bono legal services on their annual dues statement.  The reporting complements the aspirational goal of Virginia Rule of Professional Conduct 6.1 that each lawyer should render at least two percent of professional time annually to pro bono legal services.   

The VSB Access to Legal Services Director will be offering a CLE webinar on March 16 from 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. to explain the new rule, as well as opportunities for pro bono service. For more information about the event, please contact Crista Gantz at

The full text of the Court’s order may be found here.

March 7, 2018

VSB Answers FAQs about Voluntary Pro Bono Reporting

On February 27, 2018, the Supreme Court of Virginia adopted a new provision requesting that each active VSB member report their pro bono hours and/or financial contribution in support of pro bono legal services on their annual dues statement. The Virginia State Bar has put together a series of questions and answers about the new provision and what it means for you.

April 13, 2018

Legal Aid Lawyers Work to Reduce High Eviction Rates

True to form, Virginia's determined legal aid attorneys have responded quickly to address the eviction crisis that was highlighted in a recent New York Times article. Says VSB Access to Legal Services Director Crista Gantz: "This is timely action by tireless advocates and we’re excited to see the innovative programs that come from CARE."

The Virginia Poverty Law Center issued this press release on the topic and how it affects low-income residents in the commonwealth.

More coverage on the issue:

ABA Journal

Richmond Times-Dispatch Correspondent of the Day