On April 20, the Chief Justice of the Virginia Supreme Court convened the 2016 Pro Bono Summit, sponsored by The Virginia Bar Association (VBA) and organized by a committee of the VBA’s recently appointed Pro Bono Council. A biennial event, the first Virginia Pro Bono Summit was called in 2000 by then-Virginia Supreme Court Chief Justice Leroy Rountree Hassell, Sr., to expand the availability of free legal services for those unable to afford an attorney.
The 2016 Summit began with remarks by current Chief Justice Donald W. Lemons, a welcome by VBA President James Patrick Guy II, an introduction by co-chairs of the VBA Pro Bono Council Scott C. Oostdyk and Robert J. Stoney, and a report from the Virginia Access to Justice Commission by Justice S. Bernard Goodwyn.
The stage was set for presentations focused on solutions to access to justice challenges in Virginia. Among the speakers was Bank of America Corporation** Global General Counsel David G. Leitch who spoke on behalf of the in-house bar and reiterated the in-house commitment to pro bono and access to justice. Specific topics included the use of technology to connect lawyers in urban areas with rural pro bono clients and an update on Justice Server, developed by Capital One Financial Corporation**.
The Summit ended with a discussion of the “path ahead” and closing remarks by VBA Immediate Part President Harry M. Johnson. By all accounts, including those of PBI President and CEO Eve Runyon and PBI Law Firm Pro Bono Project Director Tammy Taylor who were in attendance, the 2016 Pro Bono Summit was a great success. However, as recognized in the goals established for the 2016 Chief Justice’s Pro Bono Summit Committee, the work must continue to implement the ideas developed and formulate a plan to integrate the 2016 Pro Bono Summit goals and objectives with the wider state pro bono plan.
The PBEye congratulates Virginia on its continued focus on pro bono as a tool to increase access to justice.