Lori D. Thompson
1800 Wachovia Tower, Drawer 1200
Roanoke, VA 24006
J.D., University of Virginia School of Law 1997
B.S., Radford University, summa cum laude, 1992
Professional/business/civic/nonprofit organizations :
Lori Thompson is the first woman elected as an Executive Officer of LeClairRyan, a 306-lawyer firm with offices in 8 states. As the Firm’s Business Development Officer, Lori leads the Firm’s business development initiatives and coordinates the work of the Firm’s Practice Area Teams, Industry Teams and Client Teams. She served as Chair of the Firm’s Merger and Integration Task Force which coordinated two significant mergers for the Firm with SeidenWayne and with Wright, Robinson in 2008. She also served as the Firm’s first Pro Bono Coordinator and subsequently as a member of the Firm’s Pro Bono Committee. Lori is a Shareholder at LeClairRyan, and focuses her legal practice on Bankruptcy and Business Litigation.
Lori has received the President’s Volunteer Service Award in 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010 for contributing in excess of 100 hours of community service in each of those years, exceeding more than 250 hours in most years. She has served as an active member of the Roanoke Bar Association Board of Directors for 8 years and currently serves as its Secretary-Treasurer. In July, Lori will become the President-Elect of the Association.
Lori is the founder and continues to serve as the organizer of the Roanoke Bar Association’s Santa in the Square program which hosts an annual holiday event at the Science Museum and the History Museum of Western Virginia for children and their parents who reside in the Roanoke Valley’s homeless shelters during the holiday season. In 2009, Santa in the Square hosted over 400 guests. Lori serves as Chair of the Roanoke Bar Association’s Gala and Law Day Celebration which raises funds for the Roanoke Bar Association Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization that supports the Foundation’s community service projects, and other community service organizations.
Lori currently serves as a member of the Virginia Bar Association’s Governance Committee and of the Virginia Bar Association’s Pro Bono Task Force. She was one of the initial members of Firms in Service, a program designed to coordinate the provision of pro bono services in Richmond. For several years, Lori has served as the coordinator of the Virginia Bar Association’s Pro Bono Roundtable, which is designed to foster a dialogue about pro bono services in the Commonwealth.
Lori was selected to serve a three-year term as a volunteer faculty member of the Professionalism Course of the Virginia State Bar. This program stresses the importance of maintaining the highest ethical standards in the legal profession and promotes the Principles of Professionalism adopted by the Supreme Court of Virginia.
Lori is a former Chair of the Young Lawyers Division of the Virginia Bar Association, which operated over 40 community service programs throughout the Commonwealth. She also served as President of the Roanoke Chapter of the Virginia Women Attorneys Association and as a member of its Board of Directors.
Lori is also an active volunteer in various service projects in the Roanoke Valley, including coordinating the Legal Food Frenzy in Southwest Virginia to collect donations for the Second Harvest Food Bank, volunteering for the Virginia State Bar’s Pro Bono Hotline, serving indigent clients through Blue Ridge Legal Services, and volunteering with the Youth Court program in Roanoke City Public Schools. She enjoys volunteering as a Lead Parent at her children’s school, Penn Forest Elementary School.
Lori is a graduate of Leadership Roanoke Valley and of Hollins University’s Batten Leadership Institute.
Who were the important mentors you have had and how did they impact your career?
I was blessed in my early development with excellent teachers who made me love learning, and as I try to impart that love to my children, my gratitude for my teachers’ dedication only grows.
Early in my legal career, I was fortunate to have a number of mentors who, not only taught me how to practice law and supported my development as an attorney — they also provided excellent examples of how to be a true professional. Leisa K. Ciaffone has always been willing to give freely of her time to assist young attorneys and to improve the administration of justice by being active in the bar. She is a role model for women attorneys of how to balance a successful career with caring for a family and being active in your community. Howard J. Beck, Jr. shared his love of the practice of bankruptcy law with me. He was a model of professionalism and civility. He enjoyed watching young attorneys succeed and celebrated in their successes. Like Leisa, Howard was committed to his profession, his family and his community – serving as President of the Board of Mill Mountain Theatre for a number of years.
As I began to develop into a law firm leader, I was fortunate to be mentored by three outstanding professionals who were selfless in giving their time and dedicated to helping me succeed: Gary LeClair, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer at LeClairRyan — the most gifted thought leader I’ve ever known; Michael Hern, President of LeClairRyan who demonstrates how to lead with heart on a daily basis; and Richard Upton, President of Upton Group, who has taught me so much about true client service.
What do you consider your biggest personal and/or professional accomplishment and why?
My biggest professional accomplishment was to be elected as the first woman Executive Officer at LeClairRyan. My colleagues at LeClairRyan are incredibly talented men and women who are personally committed to going above and beyond to serve their clients – whether the client is indigent and is referred to us by legal aid for representation or a Fortune 500 company that is fighting for its life in a multi-million dollar law suit. They inspire me every day. To be allowed to serve as a leader at the Firm is a true honor. It is professionally challenging and personally rewarding.
What advice would you give to a young person graduating from college this spring?
In these challenging economic times, I would advise graduates to have faith. When I graduated from collect, I wanted to become a history and government teacher and inspire a love of learning in high school students. It wasn’t to be. There were no opportunities to do what I loved where I wanted to be. But there was a greater plan that I couldn’t see, and when I took the LSAT because I was unsure of what else to do, doors began to open. And I ended up in a career that I absolutely love as a result.
Second, I would advise them that no matter what career path they follow, find a way to give back to your community that ignites your passions. Whether it’s helping the elderly get to a medical appointment, helping the homeless get a hot meal or helping a disadvantage child get a better start in life, you will never regret it. I once read a quote that “You make a living by what you get. You make a life by what you give.” There’s a lot of truth in that.
How do you achieve a balance between your professional life and your personal life?
I cannot take credit for having balance in my life. I owe entirely to my family. My husband, whom I’ve been blessed to have by my side since I was 16 years old, is an incredible partner. He believes in and values the work that I do, as I believe in and value his commitment to Roanoke City Public Schools where he serves as Director of Information Technology. Because of that, we approach life as a tag team. Added to that team are my in-laws, William and Laurel Thompson, who moved to Roanoke so they could be part of raising our children, and I am grateful every day that they did. I could not have accomplished any of the items listed on my resume without them.
When you were growing up, what did you want to be?
I wanted to be a teacher of history and government. I loved learning and was anxious to share that with young people.
What is your favorite book or movie and why?
For books, I love anything written by Malcolm Gladwell. I enjoy getting the books on cd so that I can listen to them when I travel, which is often. I like his books because he’s a great story teller, and he makes you reconsider conclusions that you’ve made about how the world works.
For movies – whether you love the sport or not, it’s hard to deny the inspiration that comes from movies about baseball. Who doesn’t love Robert Redford in The Natural? My favorites would be Kevin Cosner baseball movies – Bull Durham, Field of Dreams, and especially For Love of the Game.
What are two things about you that not many people know?
First, I met my husband on September 13, 1986, when I was sixteen years old, and we’ve been together ever since. Best day of my life.
Second, I had to overcome extreme anxiety about flying in order to do my job effectively because travel is a must. In the early days of my legal career, I actually had to be left at the airport once because I couldn’t bring myself to get on the client’s leer jet. To this day, I don’t enjoy it, but at least now, I can get on a plane of any size without hesitation, and I don’t even notice when the plane has turbulence or strange noises.
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