A year for rethinkingNovember 23, 2009 6:00 AM
by Robert Powell
The sour U.S. economy has prompted many law firms to slim down and rethink the ways they do business. Some, for example, are lowering salaries for new hires and considering doing away with billable hours in favor of contingency fees.
The Legal Elite also has undergone some rethinking. Since 2000, Virginia Business and the Virginia Bar Association have recognized top lawyers (as voted by their peers) in a variety of legal categories. In the past two years, Virginia Business has gradually widened the base of potential Legal Elite voters by offering an online ballot in addition to mailing paper ballots to about 7,000 lawyers.
This year, new electronic ballots replaced paper ballots. They were e-mailed to more than 12,000 lawyers across the state. The voter list included the e-mail addresses of all 2008 Legal Elite voters, plus others from the Virginia Bar Association and the Virginia State Bar. Virginia lawyers also were invited to send in their e-mail addresses before the balloting began in June.
Virginia Business received just over 1,600 ballots, roughly the same number as 2008. However, the voters represented a broader group than before, and they nominated more people for the Legal Elite. The number of lawyers receiving votes rose 7 percent, from 3,488 to 3,729. That increased the competition for each spot on the Legal Elite. The 774 lawyers on this year’s list represent about 20 percent of the nominees, down from 27 percent in 2007.
The Legal Elite is divided into 15 categories selected with the help of Virginia Bar Association. In the following pages, a representative from each category is profiled. The profile subjects are chosen from the top 10 vote recipients in their categories, but they are not necessarily the person with the most votes. Only one lawyer was picked from any firm. Previous profile subjects were not considered.
Following are the Legal Elite winners and selected profiles listed by category.
Alternative Dispute Resolution
Legal Services/Pro Bono
Real Estate/Land Use
Young Lawyer (under 40)