Women in the Law

A profile on Elizabeth Lacy, of Richmond. Part of a special editorial series celebrating the achievements of Virginia’s women legal professionals.

The Honorable Elizabeth B. Lacy


Senior Justice, Supreme Court of Virginia

For Justice Lacy, a long career in public-service law began in Texas, where she graduated from the University of Texas Law School in 1969. “I really went  to law school with just the idea that law was in some respect a public service profession,” she says. “Its goal was to help people and help them resolve their problems.”

She worked first for the Texas legislature and then for the Texas attorney general’s office, before moving to Virginia, where she joined the attorney general’s office in 1982 and became the first woman to hold the position of deputy attorney general. 

In 1985, she was appointed to serve as a judge for the State Corporation Commission—another first for women in Virginia. Then, in 1989, she was elected by the General Assembly to the state supreme court, becoming the first woman to serve as a justice for the court, a position she held until she retired in 2007 to the role of senior justice. Throughout her career, she has also served on many legal and education boards and committees, has been the recipient of a long list of honors and awards, and has maintained a particular interest in and commitment to legal education, and to inspiring in students a commitment to service, diligence and professionalism.

Despite the many firsts in her career, Lacy doesn’t necessarily think of herself as a pioneer. Yet she acknowledges having felt a responsibility to model for other women an idea of what is possible, of “being open to the changes or challenges that might come your way.” 

And she attributes her own success in no small part to having attended a woman’s college (St. Mary’s College at Notre Dame), where “if you were going to get anything done, you had to do it.” At a time, she says, when “everyone got married a month after college,” a career in law hadn’t been in her plans as an undergraduate. “But when the idea was presented to me,” she says, she never hesitated, telling herself, “Oh yeah, I can do that.”


Editors’ note: Women were first admitted to the state bar in 1920, thus making it possible for them to practice law in the Commonwealth. Nearly a century later, women in the law throughout Virginia have risen into positions of leadership and responsibility in public and private practice, nonprofits, education, the judicial system and legal organizations. The editors of Virginia Living sought out some of these outstanding women for their perspectives on their work and the law, and insights from their careers. For more information, including a complete list of Virginia’s top-rated women lawyers, look for our August 2017 issue.


Read the rest of the profiles in our Women in the Law special series:

Jessica Childress, Northern Virginia
Sarah Francisco, Charlottesville
Patricia Roberts, Williamsburg
Lori Thompson, Roanoke
Pia Trigiani, Alexandria
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