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The Beacon

Celebrating Our Heritage At Our Annual Retreat

September 29, 2022
Celebrating Our Heritage At Our Annual Retreat

From September 16-18, 2022, well over 50 of Virginia’s legal professionals met in Lynchburg for the VJLAP’s 18th Annual Fall Retreat to “Celebrate Our Heritage.” More than 50 other members joined for our virtual, live-streamed CLE Credits (earning up to 10 CLE hours, three of which were Ethics).

The Retreat brought together judges, magistrates, attorneys, law students, other legal professionals, and many mental health professionals for three-days of professional development and networking. It opened with a dessert reception on Friday with stories from the early days of VJLAP presented by David Mercer. Mr. Mercer not only brought us to the establishment of Lawyers Helping Lawyers as an independent 501(c)(3) organization, he brought us to the beginning of Virginia’s legal community recognizing a concern and taking action to address it through the formation of Virginia Bar Association’s Substance Abuse Committee (SAC) in the early 1980s.

Justice Williams Mims presented a keynote address at dinner on Saturday night on “Servant Leadership.” He introduced his speech indicating that he was not going to talk about his Saab, (much to the chagrin of all the attending Saab owners).  Justice Mims presented mercy as a principle of justice with humility as a centerpiece of mercy. He further stated that “when you apply this as a principle of servant leadership, you will and have achieved transcendence” and servant leaders are instrumental in VJLAP historically and today.

The “Celebrating Our Heritage” recognition ceremony started with a moment of silence in memoriam to those founders who have passed before us including, but not limited to:

In 2021, VJLAP established a Lighthouse Award for members of the legal profession’s commitment and “servant leadership” in addressing mental health and substance use concerns and improving wellness in our legal profession. This the recipients of the 2022 Lighthouse Award were:

  • Justice Donald Lemons: Justice Lemons has been a long-time friend and ally of recovery in the legal community in Virginia. He was a member of the SAC from 1990-2002. As Chief Justice he established the SCV “Committee on Lawyer Well-Being” and lead the Court’s efforts to establish the first-in-the nation Statewide Wellness Coordinator position and to enable to the expansion of Lawyers Helping Lawyers into VJLAP.
  • Justice William Mims: Justice Mims’ hard work as Chair of the “Committee on Lawyer Well-Being” which produced the groundbreaking report “The Path to Lawyer Well-Being: Practical Recommendations for Positive Change.” Justice Mims has written numerous articles, made frequent presentations, and has promoted wellness of all shapes and forms to increase the acceptance of the need for wellness in the legal community and increase the understanding and knowledge of the current amount of substance use and mental health concerns among practicing attorneys.

Also celebrated were several members who, in their servant-leadership, were founders of the SAC and Lawyers Helping Lawyers:

  • Sondra Alan: Sondra was on the SAC from 1989 through 1995. She was the first member of the SAC from Southwest Virginia.
  • Jack W. Burtch, Jr.: “J.B.” was a core volunteer for Lawyers Helping Lawyers and served on its board from 2009-2015, serving as president from 2012-2014. He has been the organization’s corporate attorney since 2009.
  • R McILwaine Keever, Jr.:  “Mac” was on the SAC from 1995-2000. He has served as a volunteer in the Tidewater Region since that time.
  • David Mercer: David has been a major force in the development and growth VJLAP beginning with his service on the SAC beginning in 1989 and serving as chair from 1993-1995. He was instrumental in establishing Lawyers Helping Lawyers as an independent 501 (c)(3) and was president of its Board from 2003-2006. He took Board Member Emeritus Status in 2016.
  • The Virginia Bar Association: VBA was the originating organization in planning, developing, and growing the SAC by providing financial support from its inception in 1983 until Lawyers Helping Lawyers became an independent organization in 2003. VBA has remained supportive of VJLAP since that time including inviting us to attend, present, and exhibit at conferences and participate in the planning and execution of wellness events. Accepting the award for VBA was Paul Fletcher, Executive Director and CEO.

In between and around all this celebrating, there was an ice-cream social, yoga, and some very competitive Corn Hole matches. Attendees were also able to earn up to 10 CLE credit hours, three of which were for Ethics. Subjects covered were:

  • Relationships and Addiction: Exploring Codependence
  • Substance Use’s Impact on Lawyer Effectiveness
  • Judicial Panel: A View from the Bench
  • Age is More Than a Number: Addressing the Impact of Aging on Our Practices
  • The Intersection of Stress, Ethics, and Wellness
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