News and Information
May 22, 2020

Marcellinus Slag Named 2020 Legal Aid Lawyer of the Year

Marcellinus Slag, who has fought for the rights of underserved Virginians for over 30 years, has received the 2020 Legal Aid Award honoring excellence in legal aid society work.

The award recognized those who exhibit: 1) Innovation and creativity in advocacy; 2) experience and excellence in service; and 3) Impact beyond his or her own program's service area.

A native of the Netherlands, Slag received his undergraduate and master’s degrees in the Netherlands before graduating from George Washington University Law School in 1988. He then lived in Richmond where he has devoted his entire legal career to legal aid work primarily in housing, consumer, and employment law issues. He retired from the Legal Aid Justice Center in April 2020.Photo of Marcel Slag

In his nomination, Jonathon T. Blank of McGuireWoods recalled the many cases he tried against Slag as a young attorney working for the Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority while Slag represented low-income tenants. Said Blank, “Marcel taught and forced me to learn how to be a trial attorney. More importantly, he taught me the importance of the role of the attorney in the system of justice. He did so with civility, dignity, passion, and pride. To this day, I cherish those lessons and try to pass on what Marcel did for me to others.”

In their nomination of Slag, Angela Ciolfi and Brenda E. Castañeda of the Legal Aid Justice Center noted that Slag “has helped secure legal advice or representation in more than 10,000 cases for Richmond area residents.”

They also fondly recalled some of Slag’s humorous attributes including:

  • When property managers saw him coming to court to represent the tenant, they exclaimed “Oh, no!”
  • He has generations of law students who boast that they really knew they had achieved competence when Marcel stopped yelling for “student 1, 2 or 3” and remembered their names.
  • He is a Dutchman who has proudly tilted at windmills for more than 30 years, fighting the good fight and carrying the heaviest housing caseload and closing more cases than anyone at Legal Aid.
  • If a meeting is longer than an hour, he will leave to take a smoke break and never come back.

Ciolfi and Castañeda concluded their nomination by saying, “Ask Marcel about the law. He’ll tell you he hates it. But he loves Virginia Code Section 16.1-93. That’s the section that says when law and equity conflict, equity shall prevail. That’s Marcel in a nutshell.”

The Legal Aid Award, usually given at the Annual Meeting in June, will instead be presented to Slag at the Pro Bono Conference in October 2020.

Updated: May 22, 2020