The legal profession is an honorable profession. The
United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights set forth
the law that provides for orderly and civilized conduct in our
society. Lawyers perform a myriad of functions in government
service and private practice. They use their legal training
to serve as judges, legislators, educators, consultants, advocates,
mediators, arbitrators, administrators, and board members.
The legal profession sets high ethical
standards to ensure the integrity of lawyers. Attorneys
are bound by a code of conduct called the Virginia Code of Professional
Responsibility that sets the strict guidelines under which a
lawyer is to practice. In Virginia, it is the Virginia State
Bar that enforces the Code of Professional Responsibility. The
VSB is the only agency authorized to license and discipline
attorney conduct in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
The legal profession establishes rigorous
training and licensing standards to ensure the quality of legal
services provided by members of the profession. After years
of legal study, attorneys must pass a two- day bar exam that
extensively tests his/her knowledge of Virginia and federal
law before being licensed to practice law in Virginia. Once
licensed, a lawyer's education continues in order to maintain
a license to practice law. Annual continuing legal education
is required in Virginia.
The client-attorney relationship is afforded
special protection under law. Generally, client confidences
revealed to his/her attorney are confidential. An attorney cannot
generally be called to testify against his/her own client, similar
to the legally protected relationship between a patient and
his/her doctor or members of the clergy.
Payment guidelines for legal services vary
by region. An attorney can require payment by the hour, or for
a set fee, or for a contingency fee for the services they provide.
A "contingent fee" provides for an attorney's fee
to be determined by a percentage of the money recovered by the
attorney for the client's claim.
If you cannot afford
an attorney, and face criminal charges that may result in incarceration
(jail time), an attorney may be appointed for you. Court
appointed counsel are licensed attorneys who are bound by the
same standards of conduct and professionalism that all licensed
attorneys are governed by in Virginia. All court appointed attorneys
in the Thirty-first Judicial Circuit also maintain a private
law practice where clients retain them for their services.
Pro bono and Reduced Fee Legal Services
The Prince William County Bar Association,
Inc. (PWCBA) provides a variety of pro bono and reduced fee legal services
to residents living in Prince William County, the City of Manassas,
and the City of Manassas Park. These services are provided through
established community outreach agencies such as ACTS/Turning
Points, (Action in the Community through Service), a domestic
violence shelter; Legal Services of Northern Virginia; and the
B.A.R.N., (Benedictine Aid and Relief for Neighbors), a transitional
housing facility for homeless women and their children. By working
through these agencies, the PWCBA is able to utilize their well
established screening protocols to determine client eligibility.
This enables the attorneys to focus on what they do best, which
is practice law. Approximately 37% of the membership
of the PWCBA is involved in pro bono or reduced fee programs, and an
even greater number provide community service through other
programs not mentioned here, all to the benefit of the local
ACTS/Turning Points: PWCBA
members provide pro bono services to clients seeking
temporary restraining orders. This program is initiated in conjunction
with the court services intake office. At the time an individual
files a petition for a restraining order, a Turning Points representative
meets with them and, if necessary, attempts to locate an attorney
from a list of about 25 volunteers. Attorneys often go beyond
the initial obligation, assisting with appeals, visitation arrangements
and related issues. To volunteer, contact ACTS/Turning Points
at 703 792-4782.
Another program administered through Legal Services of Northern Virginia is the Modest Means Panel. Clients needing legal representation on a variety of civil matters, whose income is slightly above eligibility guidelines for receiving free services through LSNV may qualify for a referral to a Modest Means Panel Attorney, (MMP). The MMP Attorney will meet with the client for a $35.00 initial consultation fee, and if the client hires the MMP Attorney to assist them, the attorney will charge the client at a reduced rate. To learn more about Legal Services, visit their website at www.legalaidhelp.org.
Legal Services of Northern Virginia:
PWCBA members provide pro bono services to clients seeking uncontested divorces. Potential clients should contact Legal Services at 703 368-5711 to be screened for eligibility. If eligible, volunteers will assist the clients in completing the necessary forms and an attorney will provide legal representation in court. Attorney training is provided annually through a free CLE in exchange for a volunteer commitment.
B.A.R.N.: PWCBA members volunteer to teach legal clinics at the B.A.R.N. Transitional housing facility, providing advice on a variety of legal topics to benefit current residents. The PWCBA hopes to expand its services to the area's homeless as time and resources permit. To volunteer to teach a legal clinic, contact the PWCBA at email@example.com. To learn
more about the B.A.R.N. Transitional Housing Shelter, visit
their web site at www.barninc.org.
"So You're 18": November 2008-May 2009
The PWCBA is the only local bar association in the state of Virginia to purchase and distribute copies of the "So You're 18" handbook for every high school senior enrolled in local public schools. The funding for this project is made possible through a grant from the PWC Bar Foundation. This informative booklet, developed by the Virginia State Bar, presents a variety of legal rights, restrictions, and responsibilities that change when a young person turns 18. The PWCBA also offered the schools the option of having live presentations in tandem with the booklet distribution. During the 2008-2009 school year, the PWCBA distributed 5600 copies of the handbook and partnered with all three local school jurisdictions to make the “So You’re 18” program comprehensive in nature. For the first time, every high school in Prince William County and the cities of Manassas and Manassas Park scheduled time for volunteers from the PWCBA to visit the classroom to present the information covered in the handbook and answer questions posed by the students. This marks the 10th year for the program and the Bar is thrilled with the partnership that has developed with area schools. By providing age appropriate legal resources to the students, the PWCBA hopes to make model citizens of the area's maturing youth.
Beat the Odds ® Banquet and Awards Ceremony: May 2009
The Prince William County Bar Association, Inc., sponsored the first annual Beat the Odds ® banquet and awards ceremony on April 30, 2003. The BTO program is modeled on the Children's Defense Fund's national program, and seeks to recognize area youth who have been involved with the Prince William County juvenile justice system, and have achieved educational and social progress in spite of tremendous odds against them. The local BTO program was first sponsored by the J & DR District Courts, then by the Prince William County Bar Foundation and now finds a permanent organizational home with the Bar Association. . In 2009, the PWCBA, with financial support from the Bar Foundation, awarded $40,000.00 in scholarships and educational grants to deserving youth, affirming their achievements in the face of adversity, and hopefully, encouraging other youth in similar circumstances to strive to succeed.
The Senior Citizen Handbook: May 2009, Law Day event
The Prince William County Bar Association distributed copies of the Senior Citizens Handbook, to interested persons, through the Prince William County Area Agency on Aging. The Senior Citizens Handbook presents information on issues and concerns of interest to adults, 55 and over, including financial assistance, health care, long term care, planning for the future and protection of legal rights. Members from the PWC Bar made brief presentations of some of the topics covered in the Handbook during seminars held at the Manassas and Woodbridge Senior Citizen's Centers. Each seminar ended with a question and answer session. The Handbooks were provided free of charge, compliments of the Virginia State Bar, while supplies last.
The Senior Citizens Handbook was developed by the Senior Lawyers Conference and the Young Lawyers Conference of the Virginia State Bar. The distribution of this helpful guide is a statewide priority of the Virginia State Bar, and is embraced by the Honorable Leroy R. Hassell Sr., Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Virginia. This is the third year for the program.
Candidates Forum: October 2009
In an effort to encourage greater voter participation in the general election, the PWCBA sponsored a Candidates Forum in October 2009, (the sixth year for this project). The forum was open to all individuals running in contested races for seats in the Virginia House of Delegates representing constituents in the Thirty-First Judicial Circuit. A three-member panel prepared questions for the candidates on a variety of issues of interest to constituents. Those attending the forum were also given the opportunity to submit questions for the candidates. A brief "meet and greet" followed the forum and the event was received broadcast media coverage via the local cable television network, as well as print media coverage in the local press. This event places lawyers and lawmakers together in a congenial setting for the purpose of heightening community awareness of the election process, and is open to the public.
National Young Reader’s Day, “Arthur Meets the President” November 2009In celebration of National Young Readers Day, which was established to remind students of the benefits and rewards of reading, The Prince William County Bar Association purchased copies of a book titled “Arthur Meets the President”, written by Marc Brown, and donated them to every elementary school library in the area. This book explores the office of the President of the United States and discusses how ordinary citizens can shape the nation by exhibiting good citizenship. Volunteers from the PWC Bar also visited two area high schools to read the book to the students and lead them in a discussion to build on the message carried in the book. This was a new project for the PWC Bar in 2009 and one we hope to continue and expand in the years to come. Funding for this project was made possible through a grant from the PWC Bar Foundation.
Character Counts! Essay Contest, November 2009
The Prince William County Bar Association sponsored an essay contest open to all students enrolled in area middle schools, which encouraged students to focus on the positive character attributes that form the six pillars of character, the foundation of the nationally recognized Character Counts! Program. Those pillars are Trustworthiness, Respect Responsibility, Fairness, Caring and Citizenship. Students were asked to select one of the pillars of character and to write an essay telling, "What it means to you." More than 800 essays were received from nine schools during the 2009 contest. Members of the bar volunteered to judge the essays, and the winners, one winner per pillar received a $100.00 cash prize and commemorative medallions from the Bar Association.,. Runners-up received a $50.00 cash prize and certificates from the Bar. The Bar Association considers this an age appropriate ethics program for middle school youth and members look forward to reading these essays every year. This is the ninth year for this program. The awards are funded through a grant from the Prince William County Bar Foundation.
Working with a Lawyer public education brochure: Begun February of 2005
The Prince William County Bar Association, Inc. (PWCBA) has developed and produced a public education brochure which addresses frequently asked questions about hiring and working with a lawyer. The brochure addresses when to hire a lawyer, where to find a lawyer, how lawyers charge, what to do if you can't afford a lawyer, and most importantly, how to work with a lawyer. It is available through the PWCBA office, through the courts and clerks offices and through public service offices through out the Thirty-First Judicial Circuit. Plans are currently underway to translate this brochure into Spanish. This project is funded via grants from the PWC Bar Foundation.
Guardian ad litem for Children public education brochure: Begun April of 2004
Nearly one third of the members of the Prince William County Bar Association, Inc., (PWCBA), practice family law. Many of these attorneys find themselves opposing pro se litigants in the Juvenile & Domestic Relations District Courts, (J&DR), in hostile situations, where the court has appointed a guardian ad litem for a child or children. Recognizing that the general public does not fully understand the role of the GAL for a child, the Family Law Committee of the PWCBA developed an educational brochure to be distributed to both parties through the J&DR District Courts in the Thirty-First Judicial Circuit, when a guardian ad litem for a child is appointed. The purpose of the brochure is to explain the role of the GAL and what can be expected. The information presented is helpful to all litigants, and is presented under the following subheadings:
Who is a Guardian ad litem? What does a Guardian ad litem do? How can you help the Guardian ad litem? How does a Guardian ad litem get paid? This project was funded via a grant from the PWC Bar Foundation.
Court Appointed Attorney public education brochure: Begun December of 2001
The Prince William County Bar Association, Inc. (PWCBA) has developed and produced a public education brochure given to clients receiving court appointed council. The brochure, "You and Your Court Appointed Attorney", is the first of its kind, and seeks to dispel many of the common myths about court appointed council and to provide a general guide for working with an attorney. This brochure, printed in English and Spanish, is distributed through all three courts, at the time such appointments are made. This piece is a collaborative effort between the PWCBA, Court Appointed Attorneys, and the Judiciary in the Thirty-first Judicial Circuit. This project received funding, in part, by grants from the Prince William County Bar Foundation and the Virginia Law Foundation. Approximately 10,000 copies are printed and distributed annually.