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VSB Annual Meeting News

Owen receives Tradition of Excellence Award

Midlothian lawyer W. Joseph Owen III received the 2013 Tradition of Excellence Award from the VSB’s General Practice Section on June 15.

Owen is a general practitioner whose work has been enhanced by his extensive involvement with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

The section’s award recognizes a lawyer who embodies the highest tradition of personal and professional excellence and who has benefitted a community and enhanced the esteem of general practice attorneys in Virginia.

Owen is a founding partner of Owen & Owens.

His law partner, Sam Kaufman, described Owen as the quintessential general practitioner.

“It is not uncommon for him to handle a felony criminal matter and a complex civil dispute in the same week,” Kaufman wrote.

Mary Burkey Owens, also with the firm, wrote that Owen is “able to handle a vast array of legal issues and handle them all well.”

Owen is state chair and a member of the national board of trustees for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and locally for the FCA chapter at Armstrong High School in Richmond.

He is a founding member of Northstar Community, a Christian-based organization that assists families struggling with addiction.

He is also a member of the University of Richmond’s Athletic Council; he is a speaker for the Strike Out Substance Abuse program; he created the Grayson Owen Firearm pledge in memory of his late son; and he is vice chair of the Chippenham Place Community Development Authority Board.

He earned his law degree from the University of Virginia law school in 1976 and his undergraduate degree from the University of Richmond in 1972.

Vienna’s Fortier named Young Lawyer of the Year

The VSB Young Lawyers Conference presented its 2013 R. Edwin Burnette Jr. Young Lawyer of the Year Award to Christopher R. Fortier of Vienna on June 14.

The award recognizes young lawyers who demonstrate dedicated service to the conference, the legal profession and the community. It is named in honor of Lynchburg Judge R. Edwin Burnette Jr., a past president of the VSB (1993-1994) and the YLC (1985-1986).

Fortier has been chair of the Young Lawyers Conference annual Professional Development Conference for two years and last year expanded that program from Richmond to a second location in Northern Virginia. He also has planned to expand it to Hampton Roads later this year. The conference provides courses in basic substantive legal skill training to Virginia lawyers.

YLC president Brian R. Charville noted that Fortier worked with attorneys at Hunton & Williams and the VSB staff to expand the program and arranged for attendees and presenters at both locations. “In his work on the PDC he has demonstrated creativity, implementing skills, and a real selflessness in service of the program and its participants.”

Fortier is a graduate of James Madison University and the Appalachian School of Law.

Mason receives award from Diversity Conference

Darrel Tillar Mason received the VSB Diversity Conference’s Clarence M. Dunnaville Jr. Achievement Award.

She is being honored for fostering, encouraging, and facilitating diversity and inclusion in the bar, the judiciary, and the legal profession.

Mason “has been a champion of civil rights and equal opportunity her entire forty year professional career,”said Marni E. Byrum in nominating Mason.

“Darrel has been a stalwart soldier in the trenches of fighting for equal rights in employment and education as well as a leader in advancing the legislative changes to protect those rights. Darrel is a credit to the legal profession and deserving of recognition by the Diversity Conference,” she said.

In 1973, after receiving her master’s degree from Virginia Tech, Mason wrote the school’s first affirmative action plan. After receiving her law degree from the University of Virginia in 1981, Mason represented plaintiffs in a number of civil rights cases and in the 1990s began representing children with disabilities and their families.

In 2000 Mason founded the Center for Special Education Advocacy, a nonprofit organization dedicated to serving families of disabled children experiencing challenges in securing an appropriate education. She was appointed to the Virginia Office of Protection and Advocacy in 2010 and became chair in 2012.

Mason served on the VSB Council from 1990-96 and was reappointed in 2009 and again in 2012 by the Supreme Court of Virginia. She has been a member of the Virginia Women Attorneys Association since it was founded in 1981 and has served as treasurer and president as well as editor of VWAA’s legal journal. Mason formerly served as vice president of the State Board of Education and chaired the state’s Council on the Status of Women, both gubernatorial appointments.

Two attorneys are honored as Local Bar Leaders of the Year

Two lawyers – Lori D. Thompson of Roanoke and Polly Chong of Newport News – were named Local Bar Leaders of the Year by the VSB Conference of Local Bar Associations.

The award recognizes continued dedication of bar leaders and close cooperation with the VSB.

Thompson, a partner at LeClairRyan, has practiced law in Roanoke since 1997 when she graduated from the University of Virginia law school.

Thomas H. Miller, president of the Roanoke Bar Association, wrote that, “Many of the ideas for which our bar has been recognized over the last several years were the fruit of the imagination of Lori. …  She is a tireless worker.”

Thompson was president of the Roanoke Bar Association in 2011-12. She is chair of the Roanoke Law Foundation and was one of the originators of its gala. Thompson started the Santa in the Square, Day of Service, Mentor Match, and Barrister Book Buddies programs.

She has twice been a member of the board of governors of the Virginia Bar Association and is a past chair of its Young Lawyers Division.

Chong, a solo practitioner, has been a member of the Greater Peninsula Women’s Bar Association since 1996. She served as chair of the association’s annual Charity Gala for 10 years, was a volunteer for the Color of Justice Program, and a member of the Judicial Nominations Committee.

Sandy Sanders, of Lantagne Legal Printing, wrote that, “Polly Chong is an attorney with a tremendous passion for equal justice under law and demonstrates it by her many civic and bar activities.”

Through the Charity Gala, Chong has helped raise funds for such organizations as the Boys and Girls Club, Transitions Family Violence Services, breast cancer research, CASA, and Big Brothers and Big Sisters.

She is a member of the Old Dominion Bar Association, the I’Anson-Hoffman American Inn of Court, the Downtown Hampton Childhood Development Center, the Hampton-Newport News Community Criminal Justice Board, the Newport News Library Committee, and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

Tappahannock attorney gets Legal Aid Award

John R. Rellick, managing attorney for the Tappahannock branch office of Rappahannock Legal Services, received the 2013 Virginia Legal Aid Award, given by the VSB Access to Legal Services Committee.

The award recognizes lawyers employed by legal aid societies licensed by the VSB. Recipients are chosen for their advocacy, quality of service, and impact beyond their service area.

Rellick has been the managing attorney of the Tappahannock office since 1984. The office serves the civil legal needs of seven rural Virginia counties – Westmoreland, Richmond, Northumberland, Lancaster, Essex, King & Queen, and King William.

Ann H. Kloeckner, executive director of RLS, wrote in her nomination that “John is the glue that holds our office together.  He is the generous mentor to other attorneys, both in RLS and throughout the legal services community in Virginia, actively participating in listservs with helpful insights. He is a sensitive advocate, a manager with a light touch, and not afraid to speak up when any injustice is apparent. He enjoys an enviable reputation among all who know him as a compassionate, principled advocate. He is the model all other legal services advocates would do well to emulate.”

William L. Botts III, former executive director at RLS, said, “John has defined his managing attorney position to encompass service to clients, service to the community and service to RLS. John is known for treating clients with utmost respect and for his patient, caring, and kind nature.” A graduate of Bucknell University, Rellick earned his law degree from the Northwestern University law school.

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