In July 1888, more than 100 attorneys met in Virginia Beach to form the Virginia State Bar Association. Led by Francis H. McGuire of the Richmond Bar Association, which was then three years old, they organized to address their goal of "improving the law and the administration of justice, and upholding the standard of honor and integrity in the legal profession."
In 1889, the Association held its initial meeting at the Old White (The Greenbrier) in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. The Association has always been a voluntary organization, unrestricted by any formal connection with state government, and free to engage in activities calculated to benefit the public and improve the legal profession and the judiciary.
For 50 years, the Virginia State Bar Association was the only statewide bar group. In 1938, after 13 years of persistent work by members of the Association, the Virginia State Bar was created by statute as a regulatory agency for the bar in Virginia. Subsequently, the "State" was dropped from the name of the voluntary association, so that it became The Virginia Bar Association.
The purpose of the Association is set forth in the 1890 Charter which states its aim as: "Cultivating and advancing the science of jurisprudence, promoting reform in the law and in judicial procedure, facilitating the administration of justice in this state, and upholding and elevating the standard of honor, integrity and courtesy." The Association is concerned with the many facets of the practice of law and pursues programs designed to preserve the efficient and equitable administration of justice. The individual lawyer seeks to improve the law, serve the people of Virginia and engage with other lawyers similarly concerned through the channels provided by the Association. A commitment to professionalism in its many expressions pervades all of the activities of the Association.
All licensed Virginia lawyers and lawyers in good standing of the bar in other states and the District of Columbia are eligible for membership in The Virginia Bar Association. Lawyers are admitted free to the VBA during their first year of admittance to the bar. Regular membership dues are $150-200 per year, depending on the number of years in practice. In addition, members may become Patrons of the VBA Foundation at giving levels ranging from $100 to $500 per year. All Virginia judges receive free membership in the Association and law school faculty, governmental, public service and fully retired/fully disabled attorneys are eligible for reduced dues. Law students may now become VBA members.
The Association encourages members to be active in its various committees and sections. There are currently 18 sections (with individual dues of $25 per section) which all members may join with the exception of the Judicial Section which is open to members of the judiciary only. All VBA members belong to the Law Practice Management Division. Approximately 50 committees of the Association and the Young Lawyers Division serve a wide range of functions in the interest of the bar and the public. The Young Lawyers Division is a vital part of the Association. Lawyers 37 years of age and under, or those having been admitted to their first bar less than three years, are automatically VBA/YLD members.
The Association's commitment to improving the law finds expression in its legislative activity. During the year, the Association's committees and sections analyze statutes within the ambit of their concern and bring their recommendations before the Executive Committee for endorsement. The Association then actively pursues its program before the General Assembly.
Another priority is law practice management both as to law office administration and conduct of individual practices. All VBA members belong to the Law Practice Management Division, established to help lawyers balance their personal and professional lives and to help lawyers, groups and law firms of all sizes manage their practices. The fostering of collegiality within the profession in Virginia is a traditional emphasis as well.
The Virginia Bar Association holds two meetings each year for the total membership. The annual winter meeting is held in Williamsburg and the summer meeting is held in the Allegheny Mountains.
It is the aim of this Association to bring together the best within the profession in Virginia to pursue common aims that advance the highest sense of professionalism and service within a storied calling.
An asterisk (*) indicates that the person listed is deceased.
1888-89 William J. Robertson, Charlottesville*