The 124th Annual Meeting of The Virginia Bar Association convened in Williamsburg from January 23 through January 25, 2014. Through President Tom Bagby's initiative, the meeting was held in collaboration with the Old Dominion Bar Association, and it was a resounding success.
The banquet on Friday night was historic as former Governor Gerald L. Baliles presented former Governors A. Linwood Holton, Jr. and L. Douglas Wilder with the Baliles Distinguished Service Award, the VBA's highest honor. Governor Baliles was masterful in describing the historical thread that brought the political careers of Governor Holton and Governor Wilder together at a critical time in Virginia's civil rights history. The poignant and humorous remarks of Governor Holton and Governor Wilder brought the enthralled audience to its feet more than once.
The banquet also featured the unveiling of the portrait of Justice Cleo E. Powell of The Supreme Court of Virginia. Further, the Chair of the Young Lawyer's Division, Travis G. Hill, presented Christopher M. Gill of Christian & Barton and W. Alexander Burnett of Williams Mullen with the Emerson G. Spies Award and the Sandra P. Thompson Award, respectively, for outstanding service on behalf of the YLD.
On Friday afternoon, before a VBA Veterans Issues Task Force presentation on the benefits of veterans' dockets, Attorney General Mark Herring gave an impassioned speech about the rationale underlying his decision not to support Virginia's same-sex marriage ban. In addition to the veterans' program, the other meeting programs were outstanding. In commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the landmark case of Brown v. Board of Education, the Legacy Series Luncheon presentation, featuring William B. Obrochta of the Virginia Historical Society, analyzed African-American education in Virginia before Brown. The general session thereafter featured actor and documentary filmmaker Tim Reid and retired Justice John Charles Thomas, among others, and focused on Brown's legacy. The VBA's Law Practice Management Division also continued its long-standing tradition of excellent programming with a session on how to identify and develop practice-ready attributes in law students and young attorneys.
With such a remarkable line-up, it is no surprise that the meeting enjoyed record attendance. Anyone who attended the meeting better appreciates why the VBA makes a real difference and is so important to our profession in Virginia. The vibrancy and the collegiality that permeated the meeting were exhilarating. On behalf of the attendees, I extend deep gratitude to the VBA's amazing staff for the meeting's extraordinary success.