The Virginia Bar named Jay Myerson the recipient of the 2018 Local Bar Leader of the Year. This is a prestigious accolade recognizing active leaders of local bar associations who have continued to offer important service to the bench, bar, and public. Mr. Myerson is the founder of Myerson Law Group in Reston. His practice focuses on family law and criminal defense.In addition to his successful practice, he has previously held many positions with the Fairfax Bar Association,including Chairman of the FBA’s Judicial Task Force and President. He has also held a number of roles in the Virginia State Bar, including currently serving on the Bar Council for the 19th Judicial Circuit and on the faculty of the Harry L. Carrico Professionalism Course.
I had the opportunity to speak with Jay Myerson to get his thoughts about what it means to be engaged in local bar associations, how bar associations are critical to initiatives affecting the judiciary, and how young attorneys can become engaged in their local bar.
Q: Congratulations on receiving the Local Bar Leader Award. How did you learn you were going to be named the winner?
I knew that I had been nominated by Luis Perez,David Gogal, Richard Gray, and Bill Daley. The Conference Chairman sent me a congratulatory e-mail with the official news that I was to receive the award. Shortly after that, a friend of mine had read the news in Lawyers’ Weekly and sent me an e-mail congratulating me for the award.
Q: You were presented with the Award on June 15, 2018 at the Conference of Local and Specialty Bar Associations annual meeting in Virginia Beach. How was the event?
It was a wonderful event. I went down to the conference with my wife, and was presented with the award at a breakfast. We had a table with members of the Fairfax Bar. The Conference Chairman and President of the State Bar put on a great program. Each award was presented separately. In all, it was a very nice event.
Q: How do you view the role of local bar associations in the practice of law in the Commonwealth of Virginia?
The role of the local bar association certainly varies by jurisdiction and the local bar association.My experience has been with the Fairfax Bar Association (“FBA”), so I can speak to that. Local bar associations create valuable opportunities for attorneys to join together and promote a healthier,more civil profession and provide programs to enhance the professionalism of the Bar and benefit the local community. The FBA and the Fairfax Law Foundation provide a wide range of opportunities for our members. Examples range from access to justice, CLEs to enhance legal competence, a conciliation program that provides attorney conciliators to litigants and their counsel to help resolve and narrow issues on motions days, and volunteers who provide students with tours of our courts and who go into the schools.Those are just a sampling of our programs.A local bar association, like the American Inns of Court, can also provide social gatherings,such as monthly or quarterly lunches to help attorneys to have non-adversarial encounters that build relationships from which clients benefit.Local bars have an important role to protect the judiciary. In my view, there is truly no other body to speak for the judiciary if the attorneys practicing before it are silent. We are the natural constituency to come forward and protect the interests of the court. That was exemplified by the effort to secure judicial funding for needed judges where local bar associations from across the Commonwealth joined with voluntary state bar associations to secure funds for badly needed judgeships.
Q: Indeed, you’ve been heavily involved with the Judicial Funding Task Force. Can you please explain to our readers a bit more about that program and the important role that local bar associations played in the initiative over the years?
The FBA’s Judicial Funding Task Force is an initiative where the interests of the Bar, the Bench and the community as a whole all truly aligned. The General Assembly had adopted an approach that when a judicial vacancy occurred in the Commonwealth, that judgeship would go out of existence and have to be authorized and funded. It was not based on need or objective criteria, but simply vacancy. It became critical for those who wished to protect the courts to lobby for a more systematic approach to establish judicial need in the Commonwealth and to secure funding to reestablish the judgeships that were needed. The FBA, in partnership with other bar associations, recognized that members of the bar have an obligation to protect this co-equal branch of government. Through these efforts over a number of years, the General Assembly allocated funds for the Supreme Court of Virginia to have judicial workload studies to establish the judicial resources needed in each of the local courts.Although initially not all authorized judgeships recommended by the studies could be funded, the FBA with members of the General Assembly and other local and Commonwealth-wide voluntary bar associations key members of the General Assembly, and others secured passage this past session of a budget amendment to provide full funding for all of the authorized judgeships in the Commonwealth, effective July 1, 2019.
Q: If you could make one change to the legal profession in Virginia, either at the local or state level, what would it be?
I would like to see more awareness of attorneys’health. Chief Justice Lemon’s wellness initiative is a great start and very important to our community. Attorney wellness is an important issue for the profession as demonstrated by the recent ABA study and I hope that the Chief Justice’s initiative and President Len Heath’s efforts in the coming year lead to a re-balancing on the approach to measuring worth of attorneys by law firms and the reasonableness of the demands placed on attorneys by their firms.Also, I would like to see bar association involvement treated similarly to pro bono work.
Q: Since the main audience for Docket Call is young attorneys who are looking to establish themselves in the practice of law,how do you recommend that young lawyers get involved in local bar associations?
I recommend that young lawyers join local bar associations and get involved with committees in areas of the local bar that they feel passionate about. Through participation, they will make friendships that will benefit them on professional and social levels. Many of my closest friends now are the individuals I met through bar service.It is also important to seek out mentors and to use your local bar association for that. When I was President of the FBA, it was important to me that we complete the formation of a pilot mentorship program. Whether through a formal program or just approaching more experienced attorneys that you come to know through the local bar, it is important that young lawyers receive advice outside of their specific practice to gain perspective on their own professional development.
About the Author
Rachel Willer Adams is a 2017 graduate of the University of Richmond School of Law. She works as an Associate with Venable LLP, in Washington, D.C.