by Robert Powell
Lawyers on this year’s Legal Elite list offer many insights about the legal profession and Virginia’s economy.
For example, the clients of Thomas G. Johnson Jr., chairman of Willcox Savage in Norfolk, include subsidiaries of foreign manufacturers. They are concerned about a shortage of skilled workers, such as welders.
“They literally have jobs that go begging; they hesitate to expand because of difficulty finding qualified technical workers,” Johnson says. “By pointing everyone to college, we do a disservice to many. Our public schools need to develop full-time academic/technical career high schools that offer pathways to technical certification and careers for what would be fulfilling, high-paying jobs for many of today’s students.”
The legal profession also faces challenges. Hugh Fain, managing director of Spotts Fain PC in Richmond and the president of the Virginia Bar Association (VBA), says the state’s judges are overworked and undercompensated.
“Less than one percent of the state’s annual budget is used to fund our judiciary, while our courts collect for the state nearly twice that amount in filing fees, fines and costs,” he says. “Unfunded judicial vacancies have dramatically increased average case loads, yet judicial branch employees have not had a base salary raise since 2007.”
Johnson and Fain are among the lawyers featured in the Legal Elite, a list that recognizes top attorneys in 16 categories. Virginia Business began collaborating with the VBA in selecting the Legal Elite in 2000. Today, all licensed Virginia lawyers are eligible to vote for Legal Elite, using an electronic ballot provided by email and on the magazine website.
More than 1,200 attorneys voted in this year’s Legal Elite, nominating 3,553 of their peers. Of those, 870, roughly a quarter, made the final list.
The magazine profiles a prominent representative from each of the 16 legal categories. They are selected from the top 10 vote-getters in each group, but they are not necessarily the ones with the most votes. Lawyers who have been profiled in previous years were not eligible.
Catherine C. Ayres, the subject of a Young Lawyers profile, has a word of advice for law students looking for their first job after graduation. “I would suggest that, in addition to whatever positions they have obtained for the summer, third-year law students look for part-time jobs with law firms during the school year,” says Ayres, an associate at DurretteCrump PLC in Richmond. “This provides them with practical experience, a broader base of exposure, a possible foot in the door to the law firm at which they are working and opportunity to develop contacts that may help them in their job searches.”
Alternative Dispute Resolution
Family Law/Domestic Relations
Legal Services/Pro Bono
Real Estate/Land Use