May 9, 2024

Woods Rogers Vandeventer Black Receives 2024 Organizational Pro Bono Award

The VSB Access to Legal Services Committee has awarded Woods Rogers Vandeventer Black PLC (WRVB), the 2024 Frankie Muse Freeman Organizational Pro Bono Award, which recognizes a Virginia organization that provides exemplary pro bono legal services to underserved Virginians. The award is named for legal trailblazer Frankie Muse Freeman of Danville who was the first woman to be appointed to the United States Commission on Civil Rights.

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Woods Rogers Vandeventer Black is the combination of Woods Rogers, founded in Roanoke in 1893, and Vandeventer Black, established in Norfolk in 1883. Through the efforts of its Pro Bono Committee, the firm maintains an active pro bono practice representing clients in matters varying from uncontested divorces all the way to substantial disputes pending in federal court. Last year alone, the firm handled hundreds of pro bono matters for in-need members across Virginia and various 501(c)(3) organizations.

WRVB was nominated by Legal Aid Society of Eastern Virginia Director of Pro Bono & Private Attorney Involvement Tricia L. Batson and Executive Director Raymond A. Hartz who wrote, “WRVB has been a consistent and dedicated pro bono partner to the Legal Aid Society of Eastern Virginia (“LASEV”) year after year. In the past year, they have demonstrated their commitment to providing access to legal services for low-income citizens through assistance with casework, innovative programs to introduce new attorneys to pro bono work, board participation, and participation in new pro bono clinics.”

Batson and Hartz continued, “In the past 12 months alone, their attorneys have handled 111 matters for LASEV. Out of the cases they have handled in the past 12 months, 20 have involved extended court representation. In 2023, pro bono cases closed by attorneys at WRVB accounted for close to 250 pro bono hours. This type of pro bono dedication has spanned more than ten years and during that time period over 40 members of the firm have assisted with more than 200 matters for LASEV.”

In the nomination, Batson and Hartz also commended WRVB partner Jennifer L. Eaton who implemented a Pro Bono Summer Associate Certificate Program to introduce summer associates to access to justice concerns and the value of pro bono work by attorneys. The program included a discussion with Chief Justice S. Bernard Goodwyn of the Supreme Court of Virginia and training sessions focused on poverty law, the justice gap, and other substantive pro bono legal topics.

As a firm, WRVB has hosted pro bono trainings, participated in legal clinics, and been a leader in the local FirmsIn Service (FIS) committee furthering the goal of increasing pro bono work in the Hampton Roads area. Added Batson, “Their dedication is consistent, supportive, and indispensable. They are the firm that always picks up the phone and willingly volunteers.”

The Frankie Muse Freeman Organizational Pro Bono Award will be presented at the Access to Legal Services Lunch and Pro Bono Awards Ceremony during the VSB Annual Meeting on May 30 in Virginia Beach.

Freeman Award winners are asked to provide a quote for their award certificates that best describes their attitudes about pro bono service. WRVB contributed:

“Lawyers have a license to practice law, a monopoly on certain services. But for that privilege and status, lawyers have an obligation to provide legal services to those without the wherewithal to pay, to respond to needs outside themselves, to help repair tears in their communities.” —Former U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg