Young Lawyers Conference

Chris Fortier, Chair

Just like that, the Young Lawyers Conference (YLC) is 45 years old!  The YLC may not be a young lawyer by its definition (under age 36 or within the first three years of practice in your primary bar) but its membership and leadership had it active all year.  The YLC had a membership of 9,163 as of July 1, 2018. This report does not cover all the activities of the YLC as there was a lot happening as the year progressed.  However, the YLC leadership is grateful for everyone’s time, effort, participation, and ideas to keep the organization active, relevant to its membership, in tune with the work of the Virginia State Bar and parallel with the work of the American Bar Association Young Lawyers Division and other state and local young lawyer groups nationwide, and useful for the public.

This year’s Board of Governors were energetic and enthusiastic, providing the President much insight and assistance with programs and initiatives over the year.  Their presence was the difference in supporting the operations of the YLC, engaging in the tough discussions and working solutions to the issues the YLC encountered over this bar year, and embracing a mindset of “how can we accomplish” to ideas or goals dreamt up internally or brought to the YLC by its membership or its affiliated organizations.

The YLC’s Program Chairs, District Representatives, and volunteers breathed life into the organization with their enthusiasm and on the ground support.  Their welcoming presence allowed the YLC to touch the lives of thousands of our members and many more in the public.  Chris Fortier, YLC President 2017-2018, noted, “these people were the empowering force that kept me going as YLC President.  Meeting them and working with them gave me new energy and I was able to return home from our events more determined to serve Virginia’s young lawyers with the best that I could provide.”

YLC Vision 2022: A Strategic Plan

In September 2016, a group convened to update the YLC’s Long Range plan as it had not been updated in seven years.  A group consisting of Chris Fortier, Brian Wesley, Missy York, and Kris McClellan met over the next year to draft a new plan.  The group was able to examine the strategic plans of the Virginia State Bar and the American Bar Association Young Lawyers Division to ensure that the plan would be consistent with the objectives of the Virginia State Bar and serve the needs of tomorrow’s young lawyers. The group also evaluated the Future of Law reports from the ABA and the Virginia State Bar. The group examined the YLC’s mission statement and wrote a new purpose statement, and goals. 

Mission Statement: The Young Lawyers Conference is committed to creating and supporting young lawyers as leaders in the bar through service to the public, service to the bar, and professional development opportunities in an inclusive environment that builds on diverse experiences, empowering young lawyers to live up to the high standards and ideals of a Virginia lawyer.

Purpose Statement:  The purpose of the Young Lawyers Conference is to:

1.     Provide a means by which young lawyers may actively participate in leadership and activities of the Virginia State Bar;

2.     Support activities that meet the needs of both young lawyers and members of the Bar;

3.     Promote, uphold, and elevate the standards of honor, integrity, and competence in the legal profession;

4.     Improve the legal system and the responsiveness of the profession to the public at large; and,

5.     Foster diversity and inclusion among young lawyers and members of the Bar.


Goal 1: To prepare and nurture young Virginia lawyers through effective communication and organizational direction to formulate strong leaders in the YLC, VSB and the community.

Goal 2: To build social and professional networks among young lawyers, the VSB, and local and specialty bars

Goal 3 : To provide professional development relevant to young lawyers’ needs and public service projects that fulfill the needs of the public.

Liaison Program

In order to more closely integrate the YLC with other portions of the Virginia State Bar, especially sections and committees, we decided to create a liaison program.  Our liaisons are required to attend section/committee meetings and provide reports to the YLC regarding the section/committee’s activities.  The liaison will also be responsible for facilitating contact between the two entities if an idea or a request for assistance arises.  These liaisons serve ex-officio on these boards and would not be funded to attend meetings, most of which either occur in Richmond or over teleconference. 

The YLC opened solicitations online for all our leadership positions this April, including our new liaisons.  Candidates were able to submit applications for leadership positions through the YLC website for the first time in the organization’s history.  Nearly 50 applications were submitted by the deadline in June, giving President-Elect Brian Wesley a strong bench of candidates to choose from for his 2018-2019 leadership team.

New Committees

Our new Public Relations/Social Media committee is now led by Amanda Gregory of Chesapeake and Christina Stierhoff of Virginia Beach.  If you have been paying attention to the more clever memes on our facebook, twitter, or Instagram, you can thank them.

The Wellness Initiative is new and chaired by Harrison Powell of Newport News and Tiago Bezerra of Fairfax. 

Our Pro Bono Committee is now chaired by Erin Witte of Richmond, Rebecca Eubanks of Fairfax, and Carly Anderson of Fairfax. They are in the midst of putting together Legal Checkups along with Legal Services of Northern Virginia and their Veterans’ Initiative. The Pro Bono Committee has been hard at work putting together the Legal Checkups.  They have partnered with Legal Services of Northern Virginia’s Veterans Pro Bono Initiative.  I was able to attend the kick off meeting and was greatly impressed with the dedication of the individuals working on the project.  Our chairs have been doing great work, putting together questions that are easy to understand and ask the proper information needed to make a consultation with an attorney potentially easier.  We hope to have more shortly. 

Finally, Patrick Callahan of Richmond co-chairs the Bench Bar Relations Committee, joining Latosha Ellis of Arlington.  They have been studying best practices to recommend to young lawyers who want to put together events with the bench. Additionally, our 7th District Representative, Rachel Horvath, joined up with the Charlottesville Albemarle Bar Association Young Lawyers, to put on a bench-bar social event, which was well attended.  Best practices from this event will be put into a guide for young lawyers.

 Immigration Outreach Committee – Immigration Consequences of Criminal Convictions CLE

 Our Immigration Outreach Committee has become a familiar fixture on our CLE calendar as they convened another program on October 20, 2017. The program sold out and had 50 engaged and active attendees, making the afternoon go faster. Thank you to Sasha Berhsad and Elizabeth Nehrling-Soutirou for putting together the program and Capital Area Immigrants Rights Coalition of Washington, DC for providing our talented speakers and getting materials to us for MCLE approval. Special thank you to HoganLovells for hosting the program at their Tysons Corner office.

Hogar Immigration Clinics

The YLC continues to alert membership to volunteer opportunities with Hogar Immigration Services.  The program serves as a one stop shop for those applying for citizenship.  Immigrants bring supporting materials (specified on the website) and lay volunteers fill out citizenship forms and materials.  Attorneys are needed to do secondary interviews, where the immigrants get a quick legal review to check on red flag issues.  Most immigrants clear these reviews but any red flag issues get referred to staff for additional interviews.  The YLC brings an average of five to ten additional attorneys to the master list of attorneys per clinic held.   Attorneys can be licensed in any state to provide assistance. 

Professional Development Conferences

The YLC’s CLE seasons was centered around four Professional Development Conferences occurring around Virginia. Each site had six hours of CLE credit with two of those credits being ethics. We held these conferences at the end of September and beginning of October in 2017.  Special thank you to Jesse Behringer and Laura Lieberman in Washington, DC, John Morgan and Thai Barker in Tysons Corner, Adam Yost and Nancy Davidson in Richmond, and Rachel Radspinner in Virginia Beach for putting together these conferences, which can be daunting tasks.


This year’s seminar took place on December 5, 2017 at the Greater Richmond Convention Center.  A special thank you to our cosponsors, the General Practice Section for their work putting this program together. 

Accounting 101 for Lawyers

The YLC’s Professional Development held a webinar on September 19, 2017. This course is designed to develop the attendee's knowledge of accounting and provide them with a basic understanding of financial statements and management's discussion and analysis of those statements. The program was designed with legal practitioners in mind to give them the tools to conduct productive conversations and business interactions with accountants and to help them better understand the "accounting language."  The program consists of an overview of accounting; an overview of financial statements, including explanations of each type of financial statement; a comparison of audit vs. forensic accounting; and an overview of accounting fraud.  Faculty on this program were Marc Filer, CPA/ABV/CFF, CFE, MBA and Koutayba Yamak, CPA, CFE from Deloitte. You can review the program here.

Virginia Lawyer

The December issue was devoted to the YLC and young lawyer issues.  We were proud to contribute to this great magazine and were esteemed to work with the wonderful folks in the Communications Department in making this issue happen. We have a number of pieces by our membership including:

The Young Lawyers Conference is Here for You by Chris Fortier

 Lawyers and Stress: Small Changes for a Better Life by Helen Chong, Tammy George, and Brent Mattocks

 We Must Combat Racial Disparity and Create a More Diverse Legal Profession by Shemeka Hankins

Manners and Messages, E-mail for Young Lawyers by Benjamin Shute 

The Future of Student Loans: The Brunner Test in the 21st Century and The Consumer’s Hunger for Change by Christina T. Parrish 

Tumultuous Time Requires Engagement by Young Lawyers by Melissa Little

A HUGE thank you to Dean Lhospital, our immediate past president, who laid the groundwork with the VSB to have them feature articles by young lawyers.  A special thank you to Patrick Austin and the Docket Call team for their highly skilled edits and eagle eyes.  Another special thank you to Dee Norman who took the cover photo (in addition to another one that made it onto our social media). 

Rule of Law Day at the Capitol

On March 29, 2018, approximately 300 middle and high school students from the Richmond, Virginia area participated in this annual program which seeks to provide students with an enriching, interactive experience about the importance of the rule of law in their daily lives, and to help them better understand the need to preserve and protect it as the foundation for the rights and freedoms we enjoy. The program was a collaborative effort between the Virginia Supreme Court and numerous Bar groups including, the Virginia State Bar’s Young Lawyers Section, Litigation Section, and Diversity Conference, the Virginia Law Foundation, the Virginia Bar Association’s Rule of Law Project, and the Communities in Schools Program of the Richmond and Henrico Public Schools. Teachers, lawyers, judges, and law enforcement officers partnered to educate and inform students about the rule of law and its importance to our way of life.

The program opened with perspectives on the Rule of Law provided by leaders representing the three branches of government and other special guests. Presenting leaders included the Honorable Cleo E. Powell – Justice of the Supreme Court of Virginia; the Honorable Donald W. Lemons – Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Virginia; the Honorable Roger Gregory – Judge of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals; the Honorable Antoinette V. Irving – Sheriff of the City of Richmond; the Honorable Jennifer McClellan –Virginia State Senator; the Honorable Michael N. Herring – Commonwealth’s Attorney for the City of Richmond; Alfred Durham – Chief of Police for the City of Richmond. Following this segment, the students were divided into two groups: high school students participated in an hour long “Rule of Law/Fact Pattern Scenario” discussion facilitated by volunteers, and middle school students traveled across the street for a presentation at the Supreme Court of Virginia. Then the group’s switched places and the discussion groups/address were repeated.

The small group discussions are intended to provide a positive opportunity for the students to meet with Virginia lawyers, judges, and law enforcement officers to explore the application of the rule of law in their lives. Volunteers moderated the sessions and assisted in answering specific questions posed by the students about particular areas of the law as well as the volunteers’ roles in the legal system.

The planning committee sponsored a contest for students to design and submit a logo for the program, and there is an essay contest for further student participation following the day of the event.

Bench-Bar Dinner

The 2018 Bench-Bar Dinner took place at a downtown Richmond hotel on March 29, 2018, which is a new and larger venue. The keynote address was delivered by the Honorable Mary B. Malveaux of the Court of Appeals of Virginia.  Judge Malveaux, who was honored at the 2017 Bench-Bar Dinner following her appointment to the Court of Appeals, was also the first African-American woman to serve full time as a judge for the Henrico County Circuit Court, and is the second African-American woman to sit on Virginia’s Court of Appeals. She spoke about the importance of mentorship for a young lawyer and illustrated her message with anecdotes about the mentorship that she received early in her career as a criminal prosecutor and defense attorney. In attendance at the event was the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Virginia, other members of the judiciary, members of not-for-profit legal organizations, law schools, law firms, the Office of the Attorney General, and other valued members of the Bar. It was a wonderful evening and the YLC will continue to host this event in the future.

Minority Pre-Law Conference

This year’s conference took place on April 7, 2018 at Antonin Scalia Law School at George Mason University (Arlington). Sessions introduced prospective law students, college-aged and above, to the nuts and bolts of getting into law school and thriving in a future legal career. The Pre-Law Conference covered all aspects of students' entering the legal profession, including law school admissions, LSAT prep, and panel discussions with legal professionals and law students on various related topics. Participants walked away with valuable information to pursue a future career in the law.

Wellness Initiative: The Introverted Lawyer webinar: May 7, 2018. This free wellness webinar was approved for 1.0 hour of MCLE credit. Professor Heidi Brown will discuss the seven steps toward authentically empowered advocacy.  The webinar sold out in less than five minutes.

The “Wellness Corner” debuted in the spring edition of Docket Call.  Watch for this piece every quarter as part of the YLC’s growing presence in the world of wellness.

Admission and Orientation Ceremonies

We continued our tradition of welcoming new lawyers to the bar by putting together ceremonies with the Supreme Court of Virginia to swear in those who passed the bar exam.  Both ceremonies were thought out, tasteful, and a memorable experience for the new bar admittees and their families.  In addition to YLC President Chris Fortier, VSB President Doris Causey, and representatives from Lawyers Helping Lawyers spoke at the Orientation portion of the ceremony, before the Supreme Court of Virginia convened.  The YLC thanks Jennifer Wong, volunteers chair, Jasmine McKinney, sponsors chair, and Annie Cai Larson, program chair, for their hard work, dedication, and attention to detail that these ceremonies need in order to be successful.

Updated Emergency Legal Services Plan: In 1993, the Virginia State Bar (VSB) tasked the Young Lawyers Conference (YLC) with developing and implementing the statewide Emergency Legal Services Response Plan (the Plan), which governs communication plans in the event of natural disasters and other declared emergencies. The Plan outlines how the VSB will provide free legal services to its citizens in the event the President or Governor declares a state of emergency. The last time the YLC made major revisions to the Plan was in 2007. In light of the number of significant natural disasters in the recent years, the Emergency Legal Services (ELS) Committee wanted to ensure VSB and the pro bono volunteers were armed the latest information and resources to best help the Virginia population. 

In November 2017, the ELS Committee updated the Plan with significant changes.   To improve the usefulness of the Plan, ELS worked on improving the comprehensive nature of the Emergency Legal Services Manual with the latest federal and state laws.  With the help of over twenty (20) volunteers across the YLC, the ELS Committee developed twelve topical guides of the most common state legal issues for the manual, ranging from bankruptcy to wills and probate.  The manual also includes national and federal aid programs that may be able to assist.  Additionally, the ELS Committee revised the chain of command provisions in the Plan to: (1) reflect new provisions of the Commonwealth of Virginia Emergency Operations Plan; and (2) establish the YLC chain of command for legal services following natural disasters.  There are future plans to include more topical guides with frequently asked questions (FAQ).

Professional Development Series Webinar: Digital Forensics and eDiscovery. On May 8, 2018, the Professional Development Series held another webinar on the topics less covered by the world of continuing legal education.  This course covered the importance of identifying the appropriate data sources, understanding and uncovering digital traces of a crime, and techniques and strategies for litigating cases more effectively and efficiently. This course was approved for 1.5 hours of MCLE credit.

2nd Annual Leaders and Careers in the Law Event. May 12, 2018. In honor of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, our Children and the Law Committee put on the 2nd Annual Leaders & Careers in the Law day at Fairfax Circuit Court.  The event sold out with nearly 70 high school students and parents attending.  Judge John Tran was the keynote speaker and students were able to attain information on how to become a lawyer. Law school admissions personnel were on hand to discuss getting into law school and provided information to the attendees about their schools. The following law schools participated: University of Virginia School of Law, William & Mary Law School, American University Washington College of Law, University of Richmond School of Law, Washington & Lee University, and George Mason University Antonin Scalia School of Law.

YLC and JOINT COMMITTEE SHOW HOW TO BECOME A MEDIATOR:  The Joint ADR Committee and the VSB Young Lawyers Conference have partnered together to create a mentorship initiative geared toward young lawyers. The project has already put on two training teleconferences: Effective Advocacy in Mediation (with The Honorable Stanley P. Klein (retired), Donita King, and Julie Hottle Day) on May 9, and How to Become a Mediator on June 13.

Thank you to our special guests!  This year, the YLC entertained a number of guest speakers to its Board meetings and dinners.  At our September Young Lawyer Leader Institute, we welcomed Senator Jennifer McClellan and VSB President Doris Causey.  Joining us in November was ABA Young Lawyers Division Chair Dana Hrelic Ciolli. In April, we were enthused to be joined by Virginia Bar Association President (and past YLC President) C. Steuart Thomas and Executive Director of Blue Ridge Legal Services John Whitfield.  We also had some of our fellows join us at the dinners during the year.

YLC with the American Bar Association Young Lawyers Division

President Chris Fortier joined Victoria Walker, an ABA YLD scholar this year (and the YLC Women and Minorities in the Profession Chair) as the primary representatives from Virginia to the ABA Young Lawyers Division Assemblies in New York City for the August meeting and in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada for the February Midyear Meeting.  Chris and Victoria were joined by the ABA YLD District Representative for Virginia and Maryland, Edwin Wu, and YLC Governor Melissa Little for these Assemblies.  These Assemblies provide delegates with the opportunity to hear from ABA leadership and weigh in on ABA policy proposals and potential model rule changes from a young lawyer’s point of view.   These voices are then taken for final consideration to the ABA House of Delegates, of which YLC Governor Providence Napoleon  serves as Virginia’s young lawyer delegate. 

The YLC also participated at the Spring Meeting in Louisville, Kentucky where President Chris Fortier, Secretary Farnaz Thompson, and Governors Shemeka Hankins and Craig Ellis participated in events such as the Affiliates Training, where young lawyer leaders from across the country participated in sessions educating them about running a young lawyer organization, and the Affiliates Showcase, where young lawyer organizations show off their best programs.  This year, the YLC showcased its Professional Development Series and its Immigration Outreach Committees.

Updated: Jul 27, 2018