Virginia State Bar

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News and Information

March 17, 2017

Registration now open for webinar: Who Pays for Nursing Home Care and What Happens When No One Pays?

April 18, 2017

1:00 PM EDT

Please register for the final webinar in the VSB/LINC pro bono webinar series Serious Illness, the Law, and Pro Bono Service, Part 6: Who Pays for Nursing Home Care and What Happens When No One Pays? at:

“Who pays for nursing home care and what happens when no one pays? This session will briefly sort through when Medicare covers nursing home care, and when Medicaid pays for nursing home care, focusing on some Medicaid issues unique to coverage of long term care, such as pre-admission screening, spousal impoverishment rules, transfer of assets, etc. The rest of the session will focus on defenses to an involuntary discharge action against a nursing home resident when the nursing home hasn’t been paid.”

Kathy Pryor of the Virginia Poverty Law Center will be the presenter for this webinar, which is the last session in the VSB-LINC Pro Bono Webinar series. There is no cost to attend this webinar; however, in exchange for the free CLE credits, attendees are asked to certify that they either will accept a pro bono referral from LINC or their local legal aid organization or make a financial donation supporting them.

This program has been approved for 1.5 hours of MCLE credit.

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

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May 11, 2017

UVa Student to Receive Oliver Hill Pro Bono Award

Amber A. Strickland, a third-year law student at the University of Virginia, is the 2017 recipient of the Oliver White Hill Law Student Pro Bono Award from the Virginia State Bar.

In nominating Strickland for the award, Josh Bowers, professor of law and co-director of the Program in Law and Public Service at UVa wrote: “I can say confidently that she is one of the finest all-around students and human beings that I have come across in eleven years of teaching. She has more integrity and maturity and a deeper commitment to public interest law than just about anyone I know.”

“Amber is a pioneer, a leader, and a team player – a student who will leave this institution substantially better off than it was when she arrived.  And Amber will be a lawyer of the same conscience, character, and caliber.”

Strickland has volunteered more than 200 hours of pro bono services while attending law school, while also maintaining an impressive commitment to an array of public service projects. Kimberly Carpenter Emery, assistant dean for pro bono at UVa, noted in recommending Strickland for the award that she contributed more than 125 hours of pro bono work to two international organizations alone – the International Law Institute: African Centre for Legal Excellence in Kampala, Uganda, and the Legal resources Centre in Johannesburg, South Africa. She is a leader in the Black Law Students Association at UVa, where she coordinates events with the local Big Brothers/Big Sisters program. She is active with the Virginia Innocence Project, the Virginia National Trial Advocacy Team, and the Virginia Journal of International Law. She has interned at the US Department of Justice Civil Rights Division and with the American Civil Liberties Union Racial Justice Program in New York City.

Next year, Strickland will begin her career as an assistant district attorney in New York County, New York.

The award, named for a late Virginia civil rights litigator, recognizes a law student’s commitment to uncompensated or minimally compensated pro bono work and other public service.

The Hill award will be presented by the VSB Special Committee on Access to Legal Services during the VSB Annual Meeting in Virginia Beach on June 16. 

May 12, 2017

Angela Ciolfi Receives Legal Aid Award from Virginia State Bar

Angela A. Ciolfi, litigation director at the Legal Aid Justice Center in Charlottesville, is the recipient of the Virginia Legal Aid Award for 2017. Ciolfi is the first lawyer to win both the Oliver White Hill Law Student Pro Bono Award, in 2003 when she was a student at the University of Virginia School of Law, and the Legal Aid Award.

Mary Bauer, executive director of the Legal Aid Justice Center, nominated Ciolfi for the award. “Angela stands out for her strong commitment to our clients, her sharp analytical abilities, and her unusually strong work ethic. She is one of the smartest, hardest working, most courageous and effective children’s rights advocates and public interest lawyers that I know,” Bauer wrote.

Ciolfi’s involvement with legislative and legal matters affecting children is extensive. She has been a leader in the effort to stop the automatic suspension of drivers licenses for failure to pay legal costs; she fought to end the use of suspensions as a penalty for truancy; she secured legislation requiring the publication of disciplinary data desegregated by race, disability, and gender, bringing hidden disciplinary disparities out into the open.

Ciolfi’s work with the McAuliffe Administration led to the “Classrooms not Courtrooms” initiative. Subsequently, a law was passed that eliminated a statutory requirement that all state grant-funded school resource officers “enforce school board rules and codes of student conduct.” She has fought proposed cuts to public education funding and she persuaded the Virginia Board of Education to make Virginia the first state to add graduation rate benchmarks to its accountability system for schools.

In addition to her legislative work, Ciolfi has represented multiple children in the juvenile justice system and has been a strong advocate for the JustChildren Program.

UVa Professor of Law Leslie Kendrick wrote, “It is clear to me that Angela could do anything, anywhere. With the hours she works and the leadership she shows, at a firm she would be clear partnership material. With the knowledge and communication skills she has, she could teach full-time and win every teaching award on the books. She has had other opportunities to do other things. She has made a conscious decision: legal aid is her calling. This is where she wants to be. And we are all better off for it.”

James E. Ryan, dean of the faculty at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, wrote that, “Angela perfectly embodies the values, skills, and talents this award is meant to celebrate: innovation, creativity, passion, courage, excellence, impact, and, above all, an unwavering and unbroken commitment to her clients and to the public interest.”

The Legal Aid Award recognizes lawyers employed by legal aid societies licensed by the VSB. Recipients are chosen for their advocacy, quality of service, and impact beyond their service area. Ciolfi will receive the award on June 16 at the Virginia State Bar Annual Meeting in Virginia Beach.

June 20, 2017

Call for Nominations - Frankie Muse Freeman Organizational Pro Bono Award

The Frankie Muse Freeman Organizational Pro Bono Award was established by the Special Committee on Access to Legal Services of the Virginia State Bar in 2016 to honor organizations that have made outstanding contributions in the area of pro bono legal services for the poor. Organizations that are eligible for the award may include, for example, law firms, corporate legal departments, nonprofits, faith-based organizations, local bar associations, court-based projects, and law school programs. The deadline for receipt of nominations is Friday, August 18, 2017. The award, a framed certificate, will be presented for the first time at a ceremony during the Virginia Pro Bono and Legal Aid Conference, Doubletree by Hilton Hotel, Charlottesville, VA.

more info

July 25, 2017

Register Now for Free Seminar: Bridging the Justice Gap through Pro Bono

The Virginia State Bar Access to Justice Committee and the Old Dominion Bar Association are sponsoring a seminar with three MCLE hours pending entitled Bridging the Justice Gap through Pro Bono on September 12, 2017 in Richmond.

The seminar, which will be held at the Bank of America building in the third floor conference room will begin at 1:00 p.m. and cover topics including the misconceptions about pro bono, the Rules of Professional Conduct as they pertain to pro bono, and the ways lawyers may get involved with helping low income and modest means Virginians obtain access to justice.

Additional information about the seminar as well as registration materials may be found here.

Please contact Karl Doss at or 804-775-0522 for more information.

September 5, 2017

Texas Supreme Court Allows Out-of-State Lawyers to Help

The Texas court will give conditional approval to lawyers who are willing to provide pro bono services to victims of Hurricane Harvey.

The Texas Supreme Court’s emergency order and the required registration form may be found here.

December 20, 2017

VSB Welcomes Crista Gantz to the role of Access to Legal Services Director












Crista Whitman Gantz has joined the Virginia State Bar team as the new director of its Pro Bono / Access to Legal Services department. Her first day was Nov. 27.

Gantz’ department serves to support, promote, and further all access to justice initiatives in the commonwealth – and its new director brings a passion for service to the position.

“Every lawyer goes to law school with high hopes for impacting people in need,” she says. “That’s what drew me to access to legal services.”

Gantz is a 2007 graduate of T.C. Williams School of Law at the University of Richmond. She previously served for three years as the client services director with the Legal Information Network for Cancer (CancerLINC).

“LINC does really amazing work for a small, specific population – cancer patients and their families in the Greater Richmond area,” Gantz says. “I learned so much there.”

Prior to joining CancerLINC, she was an associate at LeClairRyan where she was involved in numerous volunteer and pro bono activities.

Gantz says she’s looking forward to having a wide impact on people in need – without going to court everyday. ““I think that’s one of my talents: energizing and fostering engagement,” she says. “I want people to care about the work and get involved. It’s the most important and compassionate thing we can do with our law degree.”

Gantz has been a frequent guest at VSB’s Access to Legal Service Committee meetings, has developed and presented at a number of pro bono trainings, and is a regular attendee at the Statewide Legal Aid Conference. She also is the author of the article “Lawyering for a Cause: Do Good and Feel Great” from the special October 2014 Pro Bono issue of Virginia Lawyer magazine. 

Outgoing Director Karl A. Doss accepted a position as deputy director at the Legal Services Corporation of Virginia, and his last day at the VSB was Dec. 15.

December 29, 2017

Supreme Court of Virginia Amends Emeritus Rule to Encourage Pro Bono Service

Effective March 1, 2018, the Supreme Court of Virginia approved changes to the rules governing emeritus status in the Virginia State Bar.

Among other things, the amendments to Paragraph 3(e) of Part 6, Section IV of the Rules of the Supreme Court of Virginia alter the number of years an attorney must have been engaged in active practice before becoming an emeritus member, and they abolish the requirement to practice under the direct supervision of legal aid attorneys.

The full rule changes are available for review here.

Only two state bar members had emeritus status for most of 2017. The changes are intended to ease the transition to emeritus membership for the purpose of encouraging more pro bono legal services.

February 28, 2018

Voluntary Pro Bono Reporting as Complement to Virginia Rule of Professional Conduct 6.1

Effective December 1, 2018, the Rules of the Supreme Court of Virginia, Part 6, Section IV, will include a new provision, Paragraph 22, that requests each active VSB member report their pro bono hours and/or financial contribution in support of pro bono legal services on their annual dues statement.  The reporting complements the aspirational goal of Virginia Rule of Professional Conduct 6.1 that each lawyer should render at least two percent of professional time annually to pro bono legal services.   

The VSB Access to Legal Services Director will be offering a CLE webinar on March 16 from 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. to explain the new rule, as well as opportunities for pro bono service. For more information about the event, please contact Crista Gantz at

The full text of the Court’s order may be found here.

March 7, 2018

VSB Answers FAQs about Voluntary Pro Bono Reporting

On February 27, 2018, the Supreme Court of Virginia adopted a new provision requesting that each active VSB member report their pro bono hours and/or financial contribution in support of pro bono legal services on their annual dues statement. The Virginia State Bar has put together a series of questions and answers about the new provision and what it means for you.

April 13, 2018

Legal Aid Lawyers Work to Reduce High Eviction Rates

True to form, Virginia's determined legal aid attorneys have responded quickly to address the eviction crisis that was highlighted in a recent New York Times article. Says VSB Access to Legal Services Director Crista Gantz: "This is timely action by tireless advocates and we’re excited to see the innovative programs that come from CARE."

The Virginia Poverty Law Center issued this press release on the topic and how it affects low-income residents in the commonwealth.

More coverage on the issue:

ABA Journal

Richmond Times-Dispatch Correspondent of the Day

May 1, 2018

Charu Kulkarni Receives Oliver White Hill Award for Pro Bono Service

Charu Kulkarni of the Washington & Lee School of Law Class of 2018 has been awarded the Oliver White Hill Law Student Pro Bono Award.

Kulkarni, who was born and raised in south India, attended Carleton College in Minnesota where she graduated magna cum laude. She then received a masters in Social Sciences before enrolling at W&L in 2015 for law school.

David I. Bruck, Clinical Professor of Law at W&L and Director of the Virginia Capital Case Clearinghouse, nominated Kulkarni and noted not only her extensive pro bono hours but her excellent legal capabilities exhibited in mock trial competitions and in actual practice, including “...winning parole for a 70-year old man who had served 40 years in prison with virtually no disciplinary infractions.”

Her other successes in law school include successfully obtaining a temporary protective order for a domestic violence survivor and immersing herself in immigration advocacy to help those who have come to the United States as immigrants.

Says Professor Bruck, “The list of her achievements may evoke an image of a hard-charging, driven extrovert. But the actual Charu is a small, soft-spoken, and self-effacing young woman. Though she speaks five languages, she listens more than speaks, and when she does offer an opinion about a problem or an issue, her words always reveal that she has carefully considered the problem from every side.”

After graduation, Kulkarni plans to continue her devotion to public service by working as an Assistant Public Defender with the Defender Association of Philadelphia.

May 1, 2018

Dipti Pidikiti-Smith Receives VSB Legal Aid Award

Dipti Pidikiti-Smith, Director of Advocacy at Legal Services of Northern Virginia, is the recipient of the 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.

Pidikiti-Smith began her legal career at LSNV in 2008 as a staff attorney and had various roles including, Senior Staff Attorney and Chair of the Housing Law and Consumer Law Units. Dipti is an Adjunct Professor at the University of the District of Columbia – David A. Clarke School of Law.  Prior to joining LSNV, Dipti served as a law clerk at the District of Columbia Superior Court for Judge Russell Canan and Judge Stephanie Duncan-Peters. Dipti worked for AmeriCorps at the Commodore Barry Elementary School in West Philadelphia. 

In 2000, she received a Service Award from the City of Philadelphia Police Athletic League. In 2006, she was awarded the Charles Hamilton Houston Scholarship by the Washington Bar Association Legal Fund and the Service Award from the University of the District of Columbia, David A. Clarke School of Law. She was awarded the 2012 Lassy Award from the Virginia Poverty Law Center for greatest achievement in housing law and the 2015 Lassy Award from the Virginia Poverty Law Center for the greatest achievement in consumer law. In 2016, she was recognized by the City of Alexandria Chamber of Commerce as one of its “40 under 40 Emerging Leaders” and by VA Lawyer’s Weekly as an “Up & Coming Leader in the Law” in Virginia.

Pidikiti-Smith is a member of a number of legal associations including the Alexandria Bar Association where she currently serves as president, the Virginia State Bar Diversity Conference, and the Virginia Trial Lawyers Association – Diversity Committee. She served on the City of Alexandria Economic Opportunities Commission from 2011-2016, serving as chair during the 2014-2015 term.   Currently, Pidikiti-Smith serves on the Fairfax County Community Action Advisory Board and on the board of the Alliance for Human Services in Fairfax County. 

She graduated from Temple University with a Bachelor’s of Science in Biology and the University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law.

Pidikiti-Smith was born in India and spent her early childhood in India and Nigeria. After arriving in the United States, she resided in Philadelphia. She now lives in Fairfax with her husband, son, mother, and two cats.

Pidikiti-Smith will receive the award on June 15 at the Virginia State Bar Annual Meeting in Virginia Beach. 

July 18, 2018

Call for Nominations: Frankie Muse Freeman Organizational Pro Bono Award

The Frankie Muse Freeman Organizational Pro Bono Award was established by the Special Committee on Access to Legal Services of the Virginia State Bar in 2016 to honor organizations that have made outstanding contributions in the area of pro bono legal services for the poor. Organizations that are eligible for the award may include, for example, law firms, corporate legal departments, nonprofits, faith-based organizations, local bar associations, court-based projects, and law school programs.  The Access Committee annually reviews all nominations and decides upon the recipient. The deadline for receipt of nominations is Monday, August 6, 2018. The award, a framed certificate, will be presented for the first time at a ceremony during the Virginia Pro Bono and Legal Aid Conference, Waterside Marriott in Norfolk, VA.

The organization that is the recipient of the award must meet one or more of the following criteria:

  • A multi-year track record demonstrating dedication to the development and delivery of pro bono legal services in the Commonwealth of Virginia;
  • Significant contributions toward the development of innovative approaches to the delivery of volunteer legal services;
  • Sponsorship and promotion of activities that resulted in addressing previously unmet needs for legal services or in extending services to underserved segments of the population; or
  • Notable success in handling specific pro bono cases that resulted in important outcomes for low-income clients or which favorably affected the provision of other vital services to the poor in Virginia.

There must be one or more members of the Virginia State Bar who are actively involved in the work of the organization.  If all the attorneys who do the work of the organization are persons whose livelihood is derived from delivering legal services to the poor, then the organization is not eligible to receive the award. Please submit your nomination, describing how the organization meets the above criteria, in writing, including endorsements and any other supporting material, to the Virginia State Bar Access to Legal Services Committee, c/o Crista L. Gantz, 1111 East Main Street, Suite 700, Richmond, Virginia 23219 (or e-mail nominations and supporting documents to ). Nominations must be received by 5:00 pm, Monday, August 6, 2018. There is no official entry form to complete.  Please be sure to include your name, the name and address of the nominee and phone numbers with your nomination. For more information, please contact Crista L. Gantz, Access to Legal Services Director, (804) 775-0522.

See past recipients

December 26, 2018

2018 Top Ten Virginia Access to Justice Achievements

1. Adoption of Voluntary Pro Bono Reporting Rule (February  2018)

2. Amendments to the Emeritus Class of VSB membership (March  2018)

3. The Virginia Law Foundation launches VA CLE® Pro Bono Portal (April 2018)

4. Final report from the NCSC Virginia Self-Represented Litigant Study presented to the Virginia Supreme Court (April 2018)

5. Formation of Campaign to Reduce Evictions (CaRE) (May 2018)

6. Amendments to Virginia Supreme Court Rule 1:5 governing limited scope appearances (October 2018)

7. Central Virginia Legal Aid Society hires full-time Triage Project coordinating attorney to support the innovative pro bono partnership between legal aid and the private bar (December 2018)

8. The Access to Justice Commission adopts the judicial circuit pro bono initiative modeled after the 25th Judicial Circuit’s program, which will be replicated in six additional circuits in 2019 (December 2018)

9. Supreme Court of Virginia adopts model policy for portable electronic devices in courthouses (December 2018)

10. Governor Ralph Northam announces plans to put an end to driver’s license suspensions for court debt (December  2018)

February 8, 2021

Pro Bono Home Page- Technical Difficulties

We are fixing a technical problem on the home page. We apologize for any inconvenience. 

All of our resources are available on the Resources for the Public and Resources for Attorneys pages. All pro bono events and news can be found on their respective pages. 

We are striving to correct the problem as quickly as possible. Thank you for understanding.