Having practiced family law in the Richmond area my entire career, it has been fairly insular. Although I have worked with some of Virginia’s best family lawyers by trying cases throughout the state and participating in state-wide bar activities, my practice is still fairly localized. The Richmond family lawyers may fight like cats and dogs in court on behalf of our clients, but we tend to get along well outside of court and work well together. Much of this, I think, has to do with the Metro Richmond Family Law Bar Association which has been around for the past 20 years.
The brainchild of one of my partners, Terry Batzli, it was started in the mid-1990’s as one of the first localized stand-alone specialized bar associations (as opposed to a section within a local bar association) in the state. Terry’s thought at that time was that not only were the cases emotional minefields, the practice of family law was becoming more specialized and complex. There was little opportunity for collegiality or the chance to discuss the practice and local trends with fellow practitioners.
Starting with cheese trays from Ukrop’s and a couple of bottles of wine at meetings held in the conference rooms of local law offices, the Association now sponsors several CLE’s throughout the year, an annual reception allowing the bar to interact directly with local judges and other social functions. The opportunity to interact with fellow practitioners away from the drama and stress of our cases has allowed us to get to know each other better which, in turn, helps us work better together when the going gets tough. The Association has long had an active membership with successive practitioners taking on leading roles over the years.
For some reason, I thought this was standard throughout the state. Granted, I may be looking at an outdated list of local bar associations in Virginia, but of the more than 100 such associations, there appears to be only one local family law bar association. Just as I believe the VSB Family Law Section has a lot to offer family law practitioners throughout the state, the history of the Metro Richmond Family Law Bar Association shows that a local group also has much to offer through localized education or mentorships. While many local bar associations serve these purposes, one focused on family law may be quite beneficial, especially for such a difficult practice.
The VSB Family Law Section has several subcommittees, including a Local Bar Committee whose mission is as follows: Working with local family law bars, this committee looks toward exchanging and disseminating information about local practices throughout the Commonwealth to assist in building the quality of professionalism and public service in family law representation and practice. That remains one of the goals of this Section.
I look forward to serving as Chair of the Family Law Section for the next year and the development of a closer relationship between this Section and the local family law bars.
Charles E. Powers, Chair
Family Law Section