Young Lawyers Conference

Brian T. Wesley, Chair

The Young Lawyers Conference (YLC) of the Virginia State Bar (VSB) encompasses all lawyers under the age of thirty-six (36) or within their first three (3) years of practice in their primary bar. As of July 1, 2019, the YLC had 9,844 members. The following Annual Report covers YLC activities during the year, including our contributions to priority initiatives, and highlights programs that thrive to educate and serve the legal profession and the greater community. 

On behalf of the YLC Board of Governors (Board), we thank all volunteers, program chairs and district representatives, who have devoted time and energy into making this an active and successful bar year and one of the best young lawyer organizations in the country. The Board would also like to extend its sincere appreciation to the staff and leadership of the Virginia State Bar, especially our liaisons, Lauren Parrish and Mallory Ralston, who work tirelessly to support the efforts, initiatives and programming of the YLC. 

2018-2019 Priority Initiatives

President Wesley prioritized four (4) initiatives for the bar year. Each priority was staffed to provide greater dialogue, development and collaboration as well as keep the Board better informed of program matters. The Initiatives were:

  1. Bench-Bar Relations: This committee drafted and disseminated: “Beyond the Chambers," a comprehensive guide for young lawyer interactions with the bench; “Standards of Conduct for Events with Judges," a guide for young lawyer interactions with judges at YLC events; and, “Guidelines for Planning Events with Judges," the YLCs protocol for successfully planning YLC events with judges. This committee included: Latosha Ellis, Shannon Fitzgerald, and Kyle Boyton (program chairs) ;Kristopher McClellan and Cate Huff (Board liaisons); and, Brian Wesley (Executive Committee).
  2. Wellness: Under the leadership of VSB President Len Heath, the YLC assisted in addressing issues and causes related to lawyer wellness, especially those affecting young lawyers. This committee worked to develop programming related to wellness education and sustaining an active, physical lifestyle to pursue a healthier well-being. In October, the committee organized a hike in Charlottesville and later assisted in bringing kickball to fruition at the VSB Annual Meeting. During February, the committee instituted the first “Wellness Month," which focused on providing young lawyers wellness resources and educational opportunities (CLE). Additionally, the committee co-sponsored the inaugural Law Student Wellness Summit at the University of Virginia School of Law on February 5, 2019. This committee included: Harrison Powell, Tiago Bezzerra, and Heather Miller (program chairs); Melissa Alfano and Cate Huff (Board liaisons); and, Chris Fortier (Executive Committee).
  3. Pro-Bono: This committee and Emergency Legal Services (ELS) were integral in expanding pro-bono opportunities through Virginia’s FreeLegalAnswers.orgplatform, addressing the legal concerns of Virginia disaster victims. The revised emergency plan was implemented in response to Hurricane Florence and assistance was provided to the victims in North Carolina. Also, this committee worked in conjunction with the VSB Special Committee on Access to Legal Services to sponsor a CLE on Rule 6.1.This committee included: Rebecca Nasca, Carly Anderson, and Erin Witte (program chairs); Helen Chong and Rachel Wolfe (Board liaisons); and, Farnaz Thompson (Executive Committee) as well as ELS program chairs, Crista Gantz and Edwin Wu.
  4. Mentorship: This committee collaborated with the Senior Lawyers Conference to develop a mentorship program for young and senior lawyers. Internally, the 1st Year Board/Fellows Mentorship Program was developed to pair incoming with outgoing Board members to assist with their transition onto the Board. In addition, this committee continued previous mentorship programs, including, the Logsdon “Speed Mentoring” Network at the YLC’s Minority Pre-Law Conferences; and, the Joint ADR Mentorship Initiative, a program between the YLC and the VSB/VBA Joint ADR Committee. This committee included: Brittney Sandler, Lindsay Powell, and Matthew Lafferman (program chairs); Giovanni DiMaggio and Alicia Roberts Johnson (Board liaisons); and, Missy York (Executive Committee).

Highlighted Programs

Docket Call: Docket Call is the official publication of the YLC. At the Board’s January meeting, it approved eliminating all print editions to focus on a comprehensive online presence. DocketCall can be found at This program included: Andrew Selman (program chair); and, Patrick Austin and Dayna Bobbit (Board liaisons).

Children & the Law: On December 18, 2018, the committee participated in a career fair at a Hampton high school. On January 16, 2019, the committee led a tour of the Virginia Beach Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court with a sophomore high school class where Judge Bullock spoke on becoming a lawyer and judge. In May, the committee conducted a high school presentation on the legal implications of sexting and cyberbullying. This committee included: Dustin Narcisse, Ra He Jeon, and Crystal Shin (program chairs); and, Helen Chong and Melissa Little (Board liaisons).

Oliver Hill/Samuel Tucker Pre-Law Institute (“Institute”): The Institute took place the week of July 8-13 at the University of Richmond, where it welcomed over thirty (30) students for a five (5) day intensive pre-law program. The program featured tours of the State Capitol and Supreme Court of Virginia; a networking reception; and, law classes that prepared students to compete in a mock trial competition at the end of the week. This committee included: Wesley Allen and Courtney Frazier (program chairs); and, Alicia Roberts Johnson and Melissa Little (Board liaisons). This program continues to be a collaborative partnership between the YLC and Diversity Conference.
Rule of Law Day at the Capitol: This program, under the leadership of Justice Cleo Powell, expanded to a two-day rule of law program to accommodate nearly three hundred (300) area students participants. The program took place on April 23-24, 2019. On January 31, 2019, the program was expanded geographically to accommodate Chesterfield County, students. This committee included: Drew Sarrett and Breanna West (program chairs); and, Farnaz Thompson and Annie Cai Larson (Board liaisons). This program is a collaborative partnership between the YLC and Litigation Section.

Wills for Heroes: This program took place on May 18, 2019, in the Tidewater area, where nearly forty (40) heroes and their families received testamentary documents in appreciation of their dedication and service. There were more than thirty (30) volunteer attorneys. This committee included: Nicolle Vasquez Del Favero and Melissa Moser (program chairs); and, Giovanni DiMaggio and Nerissa Rouzer (Board liaisons). This program is a collaborative partnership with the Virginia Bar Association Young Lawyer Division. 



“Hanging A Shingle Starting and Perfecting a Law Practice”: In July 2018, the YLC partnered with Virginia CLE to present this CLE, which included 6.0 hours of CLE credit with 2.0 hours of ethics credit. This CLE had over one-hundred twenty-two (122) attendees. Farnaz Thompson moderated this CLE.

Professional Development Conference (PDC): On October 12, 2018, the YLC hosted its annual PDC CLE program at locations around Virginia and Washington, DC It offers a day of live CLEs on legal topics relevant to young lawyers. The PDC was coordinated by Jazzirelle Sepulveda, Rachel Radspinner, Steven Sovinsky, Andrew Tarne and Adam Yost (program chairs) as well as Melissa Alfano and Rachel Wolfe (Board liaisons).

The YLC, through the Pro-Bono Committee, co-sponsored with the VSB Special Committee on Access to Legal Services a CLE focused on Rule 6.1, the voluntary pro-bono reporting rule. The CLE took place on January 17, 2019, at the Alexandria Circuit Court. The CLE was coordinated by Clarissa Pintado with Crista Gantz and Jennifer Fulmer as speakers.

“Optimizing the Lawyer Brain”: On February 26, 2019, the YLC hosted a CLE webinar, presented by Dr. Debra Austin, JD, PhD, which focused on matters such as the brain’s association with memory formation, motivation, and reward; and, the impact of stress on cognition. This CLE was a focal point during “Wellness Month”.

“Understanding the Immigration Consequences of Criminal Dispositions in Virginia- Ethical and Legal Considerations”: On March 28, 2019, the Immigrant Outreach Committee in conjunction with the Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights (CAIR) Coalition hosted a CLE to address the legal and ethical considerations of immigration consequences of criminal dispositions in Virginia. The CLE took place at George Mason University. The CLE was coordinated by Marissa Ortega.

The YLC with the Fairfax Bar Association’s YLD presented a CLE on effective legal writing and oral advocacy. It took place on May 22, 2019, at the Fairfax County Courthouse. This program was coordinated by Matthew Perushek (District 5 Representative). 
Annual Meeting: Each year, the YLC participates in a number of CLE opportunities at the Annual Meeting in Virginia Beach. This committee included: Amanda Hayes and Ashley Barendese (program chairs); and, Nerissa Rouzer and Brian Wesley (Board liaisons).

“Judicial Squares”: The YLC’s showcase CLE provided a fun and educational format in the areas of criminal and civil procedure and featured judge participants.
“Immigration: Contradictory or Complimentary to the Rule of Law”: The YLC assisted the Diversity Conference on this immigration related CLE.
“True Collegiality: A Study of How Young Family Lawyers Can Reverse the Trend of Hostility and Return to the True Calling of Service”: The YLC assisted the Family Law Section on this CLE.


The YLC was recognized during the 2018-2019 bar year in the following:

The YLC was awarded the ABA State Division, Class A First Place Award in the Comprehensive Category. This award recognized programming efforts for the 2017-2018 bar year, under the leadership of President Chris Fortier, and was last awarded to the YLC over ten (10) years ago.
The Oliver Hill/Samuel Tucker Pre-Law Institute was awarded First Place in the Embracing Diversity Challenge, sponsored by the ABA’s Young Lawyer Division. This grant award will allow for an expansion of the Institute in the future.

2019-2020 Officers and New Board Members

2019-2020 Executive Committee:
President: Farnaz Thompson
President-Elect: Missy York
Secretary: Kristopher McClellan
Immediate Past-President: Brian Wesley

New Board Members:

Harrison Powell (1st District)
Victoria Walker (4th District)
Matthew Perushek (5th District)
Benjamin Shute (6th District)
Christina Parrish (At-Large)
Breanna West (At-Large)

Respectfully submitted:

Brian T. Wesley
Immediate Past-President, Young Lawyers Conference

Updated: Jul 11, 2019