When Reston attorney Jay Myerson was named president-elect designate of the Virginia State Bar in the fall of 2019, few could have imagined what was coming the following spring.
COVID-19’s impact was felt around the globe. And closer to home, the pandemic presented unique challenges to the bar and the legal profession.
As his yearlong term in office comes to a close, Myerson said he is particularly gratified with what was accomplished this year.
“Although I did not have the year I anticipated when I sought to become president-elect designate, I did have a year filled with many more opportunities than were afforded to my immediate predecessors,” he noted.
Myerson, founder of The Myerson Law Group, took the helm at the VSB Annual Meeting in June 2021. The meeting marked a return to in-person events after COVID scrapped the 2020 meeting, but events and capacity remained limited.
Myerson said his first focus was to review adaptations made necessary by the pandemic and then evaluate what should continue — and what could be modified or discontinued.
Ultimately, these assessments led to the extension of some hybrid or virtual opportunities, including with this month’s VSB Annual Meeting.
“We made the decision for this year to go back to having a live in-person annual meeting, but making the CLE component available in a hybrid format for those who decide not to come or are unable to come to Virginia Beach. I think that is a major step forward,” Myerson said.
A look back
Accomplishments Myerson noted from his year as president included efforts in the area of attorney wellness, namely by the VSB President’s Special Committee on Lawyer Well-Being. The committee established a new award, the Award for Excellence in Wellness and Well-Being in the Legal Profession, to be awarded for the first time at the annual meeting in June.
Also during his tenure, Myerson appointed the VSB Special Committee on Rules and Procedures to continue evaluation of and make recommendations regarding the bar’s bylaws. The VSB also established an online mentorship clearinghouse to facilitate the process of young or new attorneys finding mentorship programs in their area.
Myerson added that the bar “had a very good year with the General Assembly, even though we are normally not involved with the General Assembly.” Earlier this year, a bill that would have shifted the present lawyer disciplinary system to a legislature-appointed commission was passed by indefinitely.
During the last year, Myerson noted several changes that he “initially did not foresee happening” during his term.
Those changes include the transfer of the Virginia Supreme Court Chief Justiceship to Chief Justice S. Bernard Goodwyn following the retirement of Chief Justice Donald W. Lemons. Lemons announced he was stepping down as chief justice at the end of 2021, and formally retired on Feb. 1.
In May, VSB Executive Director Karen Gould announced her pending retirement from the bar after 15 years in her role.
To help the search, Myerson appointed a special task force. Filling that role, he said, will be one of the most important things to be accomplished in the year ahead for the VSB.
As restrictions loosened over the past year, Myerson was able to pursue his desire of visiting local bar associations across Virginia, including in locales that “may not normally receive as much attention.”
Myerson said that, as VSB president, this outreach and embrace of the geographic diversity of the Commonwealth was of vital importance.
“The needs for rural communities are different,” he noted. “Some of our communities do not have sufficient attorneys and more challenges obtaining the benefit of greater access to continuing legal education. They need to hear from us and know that we appreciate their needs.”
Myerson highlighted the significance of embracing diversity in all forms, including geographic, to the bar and to the profession as a whole.
“We are stronger as a bar and as a nation, to the extent that we embrace all forms of our diversity and use that to grow,” Myerson said.
As the end of his term as VSB president nears, Myerson acknowledged it is bittersweet, but added that “we have accomplished a great deal this year.”
In the short term, Myerson anticipates spending more time at home with less travel. His office dog, Ruby, “is greatly looking forward to my return to the office and our home.”
Looking ahead, Myerson aims to continue focusing on championing the Rule of Law and emphasizing the importance of preserving, protecting and perpetuating that legacy to Virginia attorneys. As VSB president, he was able to address the role of attorneys in protecting the Rule of Law.
“I think our country needs to spend more time focusing on that which unites, rather than what polarizes, us,” he said. “We are a diverse country, but the glue that holds us together is the Rule of Law, and I deeply and firmly believe that as Virginia attorneys, we have a special obligation to preserve, protect and perpetuate that legacy. If there is a non-partisan vehicle available to me to participate in that effort, I will do so.”
As immediate past president, Myerson will provide assistance to his successors, as all former presidents did for him during his term. He gave credit to those who work alongside him at the VSB for aiding in the accomplishments of the past year.
“I greatly appreciate the work of our many volunteers and excellent staff,” he said. “They are the ones who are the strength and the core of the VSB.”