Women in the Law

A profile on Lori Thompson, of Roanoke. Part of a special editorial series celebrating the achievements of Virginia’s women legal professionals.

Lori Thompson, Roanoke

Attorney and General Counsel, LeClairRyan

Though most of us will need civil legal services at some point in our lives, it has been well documented that far too many among America’s most vulnerable populations—including the elderly, the poor, the disabled, children, veterans and victims of domestic violence—lack access to these services because they cannot afford them. The American and the Virginia State Bar associations promote the responsibility of attorneys to help address this injustice through a commitment to donating  free, pro bono (from the Latin “pro bono publico,” or “for the public good”) legal services to those who need them. 

“Having a law license allows you to stand up for other people and make a difference in their life,” says Thompson. “And part of having the privilege of practicing law means you have an obligation that goes along with it to use your law license to help those who can’t afford to hire an attorney.”

In her work, Thompson, a graduate of the University of Virginia School of Law, has demonstrated an exceptional model of what that commitment means. When awarding her with the Roger D. Groot Pro Bono Publico Award “for outstanding pro bono and community service” at its annual meeting in 2016, the Virginia State Bar association noted that Thompson had contributed nearly 3,000 volunteer hours in little more than a decade.

While not all pro bono work serves the needs of the disadvantaged—many attorneys also donate time and valuable services to community organizations, nonprofit boards and professional associations—Thompson says that it is deeply satisfying to be able to help make people’s lives better through pro bono work, whether it is aiding a mother in planning for a disabled child’s needs or intervening in foreclosure proceedings against a veteran (both cases Thompson has handled). 

Thompson believes that pro bono work benefits lawyers and the legal system as much as it does the people being served. “That to me is the fun part of practicing law,” she says, “when you get to do those things for other people, and they get to see lawyers doing good.”

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
Patricia Roberts, Williamsburg
Pia Trigiani, Alexandria
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