Legal Elite adds two new categories in its 16th year
The Virginia Legal Elite is growing. The annual list of top lawyers as selected by their peers now includes 18 legal categories with the addition of Environmental Law and Corporate Counsel this year.
The Legal Elite had only 10 business-related categories in 2000 when Virginia Business launched it in collaboration with the Virginia Bar Association. The number of specialties on the list gradually increased over the years.
The additional categories contributed to a higher number of nominees this year, nearly 3,800, an increase of more than 9 percent from 2014. Roughly a quarter of the nominees, 992, made the final list.
Voting for the Legal Elite is open to any licensed Virginia lawyer. Electronic ballots are emailed each June to nearly 14,000 lawyers throughout the commonwealth. An online ballot also was available on the magazine’s website during the six-week voting period.
Lawyers are allowed to vote for members of their own firms, but they also must vote for an equal number of attorneys in other firms for their ballots to be counted. “Outside” votes are given a higher value in arriving at each nominee’s total score.
To gain an insight into the lives and careers of Legal Elite lawyers, the magazine profiles a representative from each of the 18 categories. The profile subjects are selected from the top 10 vote getters in each group, but scores are not the sole criteria. Lawyers who have been profiled before — a group which now numbers nearly 200 — are not chosen.
The profile subjects are a diverse group geographically, with six each from Central Virginia and Northern Virginia, four from Hampton Roads and one each from Southwest Virginia and the Shenandoah Valley.
Nonetheless, the lawyers have some common ties. Ten are Virginia natives, with four from the Richmond area. Many of the other eight lawyers are from neighboring states, but two come from as far away as California and Canada.
Four received their law degrees from the University of Virginia, while three attended law school at William & Mary, and two each went to the University of Richmond and Regent University.
Five of the profile subjects earned bachelor’s degrees from U.Va., and two went to VMI.
Five of the lawyers began their careers as law clerks with state or federal judges. Two, Michael Harman and David Dallas, had their first jobs with the same Richmond firm, Browder, Russell, Morris & Butcher. Likewise, Stephen Noona and Jamie Shoemaker both started with Kaufman & Canoles in Hampton Roads where Noona, now an equity partner, has worked for more than 30 years.
Another profiled lawyer who has spent his entire career with one firm is Pete Johnson of Hunton & Williams in Richmond, who is the current president of the Virginia Bar Association. “The goals for my presidency are a function of what the VBA has meant to me, my family, and my career,” he says. “We have focused on two priorities: promoting leadership for young lawyers and pro-bono service.”