The Virginia Board of Bar Examiners begins the new year with a new, full-time administrative chief and a change on its board.
Such personnel changes are rare at the agency that administers the Virginia Bar Examination and reviews the qualifications of applicants for the Virginia bar.
The administrative change was prompted by the retirement, for health reasons, of veteran VBBE secretary and treasurer W. Scott Street III. Street was diagnosed last year with a rare form of cancer.
A full-time attorney and partner at Williams Mullen, Street had served on the side as the VBBE secretary-treasurer since 1973.
What started as a truly part-time endeavor, however, became more like a full-time occupation in the last eight to 10 years, Street said.
Now, as Street, 70, steps aside, the Supreme Court of Virginia has named a career state lawyer to lead the agency in a full-time capacity.
Former Senior Assistant Attorney General Catherine Crooks Hill took office Dec. 31 as secretary and treasurer to the VBBE.
As manager of the civil litigation unit at the attorney general’s office, Hill had few regular “clients” among state agencies, but she worked consistently with the VBBE and the Virginia State Bar, two administrative agencies of the Supreme Court of Virginia.
There was very little litigation involving the VBBE in the last 10 to 12 years, she said.
“I hope and think it was a reflection on the work Mr. Street did,” Hill said. “He was good, and he did this for so long.”
Hill praised Street for being both a both mentor and friend as she worked with the agency.
Hill now takes the manager’s role at the eight-employee office of the VBBE, although she’s a bit uncertain about all the responsibilities.
She had planned a six-month training period, overlapping with Street’s service. His health concerns prevented that opportunity, she said.
“I have a lot to learn and I know that,” Hill said. “I probably don’t even know what I don’t know yet.”
Street praised Hill’s track record as counsel to the VBBE. Her familiarity with the agency should give her an edge in the new position, he said.
Also departing from service at the VBBE is longtime board president Robert E. Glenn of Roanoke. He was president for more than 20 years, on the board for almost 32 years.
Glenn also said his health led him to forgo reappointment to another term.
The Supreme Court appointed C. Kailani Memmer of Roanoke to succeed Glenn on the VBBE. Members serve five year terms.
The VBBE board is known for long service by members. The shortest term Glenn could recall was 10 years.
“They come on, and they complain about the work and the lack of pay. And then they just stay,” Glenn said. “It’s rewarding work. You feel like you’re doing something important,” he added.
Street was only the third secretary-treasurer of the VBBE. Before Street, the duties were handled by the clerks of the Supreme Court.
The current director of the VBBE’s Character and Fitness Committee, Stephen A. Isaacs, has served in that capacity since 1994.
The two recent transitions at the VBBE did not reflect any scheme for change, Glenn said.
“We didn’t plan it that way. It just happened that way,” he said.
When not guiding the work of qualifying new lawyers for practice in Virginia, Street has practiced at Williams Mullen’s Richmond office. It was the only office for that firm when he started there 34 years ago.
Street said he was attracted to the firm at the time because it still included a number of general practitioners. In time, Street turned his practice focus to business litigation and real estate work.
Street, a past president of the Virginia State Bar, has gained renown as the lawyer who picked up the banjo and learned to play well enough to sit in with professional bluegrass bands.
“I’ve had fun with that,” Street said. “I guess I consider that part of the hobby-type things that keep a lawyer sane.”