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Education of Lawyers

A Section of the Virginia State Bar.

Section News and Information

April 15, 2019

Tom Edmonds Receives 2019 Rakes Leadership in Education Award

The Section on the Education of Lawyers of the Virginia State Bar has presented Thomas A. Edmonds of Richmond with the William R. Rakes Leadership in Education Award.

Edmonds is being honored for his long-standing and dedicated contributions to the field of legal education in both an academic setting as well as an administrative setting as former Executive Director of the Virginia State Bar. 

In his nomination letter, George A. Somerville of Harman Claytor Corrigan & Wellman, P.C., stated, “ will find no individual in Virginia who more fully exemplifies a lifelong commitment and demonstration of excellence in the areas that the Section on Education of Lawyers has identified as criteria for this award.” John A.C. Keith, co-founder of Blankingship & Keithwrote, “Tom Edmonds has demonstrated his abiding interest in the education of lawyers in countless ways.” 

After an early career in private practice in Florida, Tom transitioned into his passion: legal education. Tom served as a law professor at the University of Mississippi, at Florida State University, the Duke University School of Law and as a Visiting Professor of Law at the University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law. In 1977, he joined the faculty of the University of Richmond School of Law and served there as Dean and Professor of Law until 1987. The University of Mississippi lured him away briefly, but in 1989 he returned to Virginia to serve as Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer of the Virginia State Bar and remained in that position until his retirement at the end of 2007. 

During his tenure as Dean of the University of Richmond Law School, the law school increased grants to students for financial assistance; included law students in the Virginia Tuition Assistance Grant Program; created and developed a law firm scholarship program; and established the Robert R. Merhige Jr. Center for Environmental Studies. 

Tom’s contributions to legal education continued during his long tenure as Executive Director of the Virginia State Bar. In addition to the enormous everyday responsibilities of managing the diverse activities of the bar, Tom personally worked with VSB President William R. Rakes to conceive, plan and conduct three Conclaves on the Education of Lawyers in Virginia, involving discussions among academics, practitioners, and judges of ways the three groups could work together more effectively to improve legal education and CLE. 

In retirement, Edmonds served on the VSB Council for two terms and on the Standards Review Committee of the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admission to the Bar. He currently is a member of the board of the VSB Clients’ Protection Fund. On two occasions he has taught again, once as a visiting professor at the University of Nebraska College of Law and again at the Charleston School of Law in South Carolina.

A graduate of Mississippi College with a B.A. in History and Political Science, Edmonds received his law degree from Duke University. A father of three, Tom lives in Richmond with his wife, Martha.

The Rakes award is to be presented June 14, 2019, at the Virginia State Bar Annual Meeting in Virginia Beach.