Virginia State Bar

An agency of the Supreme Court of Virginia

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Family Law

A Section of the Virginia State Bar.

Section News and Information

December 9, 2021

Chair’s Message

Patrick Maurer

The timeless adage that “law school doesn’t teach you how to be a lawyer; you will learn that on your own” is often spoken in gest or as a nugget of wisdom to younger members of the Bar. I have offered it in jest from time to time. While the maxim makes a good point between the difference between academic education and practical experience, it falls short on accurately describing how a lawyer gains the experience required to be an effective advocate for our clients. The fact is, we don’t learn these pragmatic lessons alone. We learn by interacting with clients, trying cases, and most importantly, from other lawyers.

A young lawyer should not have to reinvent the wheel when entering practice. While we all had to make mistakes when starting out, the humbling practice gaffes force us to reflect and improve. This is how we learn the hard and necessary lessons that we keep with us throughout our careers. However, having access to an experienced attorney as a mentor is critical in building a successful career and practice. I have been fortunate to have attorneys throughout my career who were willing to offer advice and show me the ropes so I would not be left to learn every step the hard way.

Most critical lessons I have learned have come from colleagues, opposing counsel, or an attorney unrelated to the case at hand. Friendly advice from more experienced counsel can make the difference between thriving at the practice or struggling. Most in the practice of law have had the opportunity to assist younger attorneys and help them develop. Others have not had the same access or opportunity. There are a number of mentor programs that allow attorneys of varying levels of experience access to one another in an effort to assist in fostering a mentor/mentee relationship. Many professional associations, bar associations, and Inns of Court make it a priority to have such programs. The Virginia State Bar’s Family Law Section in conjunction with the Young Lawyers Committee is launching a new mentor program. The goal is to link young lawyers with members of the Section who can assist them with questions about how to handle a specific situation or need guidance in a case. It is not a traditional relationship-based program, but one that provides specific guidance in a particular situation. While not yet up and running, the program is set to launch in the near future. Mentor applications are currently being accepted at: I encourage all members of the Section who meet the required criteria to sign up as a mentor and participate in the program. Our young lawyer liaison Ra Hee Jeon has spent considerable time and effort in bringing this program to fruition. Her dedication to the project and determination to make it happen are inspiring. She deserves our gratitude for her work. The best way to do that is to sign up as a mentor and join in helping the next generation of attorneys carry on the legacy of exceptionalism for which our section has become known.

On a related note of spreading our collective wisdom to our colleagues, I am very proud of Colleen Quinn and Mary McLaurin’s Virginia Family Law Quarterly article “Who Gets Our Future Children? The Need for Execution of Separate Embryo Disposition Agreements” 41 Va. Fam. L. Q. 7 (Fall 2021) being cited by the Virginia Court of Appeals in Jessee v. Jessee, 73 Va. App. ___ 0349212 (2021). It is an outstanding accomplishment that their article was cited in a published opinion. Thank you to everyone who works on and has submitted content for the publication. Without your involvement and participation this periodical could not exist.

Patrick Maurer