News and Information
May 09, 2007

Family Law Section Recognizes Outstanding Virginia Lawyers


Fairfax Domestic Relations Lawyer Philip Schwartz Chosen for Virginia State Bar Lifetime Achievement Award

Philip Schwartz, who has practiced law in Virginia for almost 50 years, has been honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Family Law Section of the Virginia State Bar.

The award recognizes an attorney who has made a unique contribution to family law practice in Virginia; who has demonstrated dedication to excellence, competence and integrity; and who is committed to the “abiding importance of service to families through the legal system.???  It was presented April 27 during the Family Law Section’s Advanced Family Law Seminar in Richmond.

Schwartz was nominated by Alexandria attorney Sharon K. Lieblich. “In a field where contentiousness often rules, Mr. Schwartz is always cordial; he exemplifies the highest degree of professional conduct to his fellow practitioners.  In addition, he is consistently helpful to younger lawyers seeking his advice in complicated domestic relations situations,??? Lieblich wrote.

Schwartz was admitted to the Virginia bar in1959, after working as a Russian linguist for the U.S. Army, Central Intelligence Agency and National Security Agency.  He put himself through George Washington University Law School while working at the NSA.  In 1963, he left government work and joined a law firm. He began focusing on family law in 1970.

He is fluent in French and Spanish, as well as Russian, and his experiences with intelligence missions in several countries led him to cultivate an international niche in his domestic law practice.  He has taught other attorneys to be sensitive to body language, gestures and linguistic elements that can cause misunderstandings with other cultures.
“While he has personally handled a large number of interesting and difficult situations, his willingness to assist others who encounter theses troublesome international situations in their own practices is one of the hallmarks of his professionalism,??? Lieblich wrote.

Schwartz practices in Vienna with Schwartz & Associates LLC, and he is of counsel to Maddox, Cole & Miller PC.  A native of Brooklyn, N.Y., he received a bachelor’s degree in international economics from George Washington University in 1952. He also holds a master of laws degree in taxation from Georgetown University.



Mary G. Commander Presented with First Family Law Service Award By the Virginia State Bar

Mary G. Commander, a Norfolk family law attorney and volunteer for the Community Mediation Center of Southeastern Virginia, has been presented with the Virginia State Bar’s first Family Law Service Award.

The award was established by the VSB Family Law Section to recognize individuals or organizations that give freely of time, talent and energy to advance family, domestic relations or juvenile law in Virginia. It was presented to Commander on April 27 during the Family Law Section’s Advanced Family Law Seminar in Richmond.

Commander was nominated for the award by Karen H. Richards, interim executive director of the Community Mediation Center, which helps economically disadvantaged persons find peaceful ways of resolving and preventing conflict.

Commander has volunteered at the center since 1995. She has served on its board of directors and executive committee, and currently is vice chair. She volunteers at the center as a family mediator and teaches new mediators about family law issues such as spousal support, equitable distribution and the process of divorce. She also has helped lead the center’s primary fundraiser, an annual golf tournament.

In other volunteer roles, Commander helped bring together attorneys, financial planners and mental health professionals to form the Hampton Roads Collaborative Law Group. She works with the Tidewater Legal Aid Society and the National Greyhound Adoption Program. She is vice chair of the Norfolk Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court’s Citizens Advisory Council, and she serves on the board for the National Center for Family Law at the University of Richmond Law School.  

She also serves on the boards of the Old Dominion University Intercollegiate Foundation and the Norfolk Law Library.

A Norfolk native, Commander received a bachelor’s degree from Old Dominion in 1977 and law degree from the University of Richmond in 1981.

Updated: May 09, 2007