Reasons to support the Virginia Trial Lawyers Foundation

You know about VTLA and what it does because, as a member, you’ve come to value the Association’s publications, CLE seminars, listserves, legislative work, convention, website, searchable databases, and many member and public service activities. If you don’t know about VTLA, you know our number and we’ll be glad to answer any questions you may have! 

But you may not know about the Virginia Trial Lawyers Foundation (VTLF), which has been around since 1989. There are many great things we could tell you about the Foundation but in the interest of time, let’s begin with just four things you should know:

1. VTLF supports a statewide Bicycle Helmet Safety Program, a program designed to present helmets and safety information to elementary school children Thanks to VTLA members, thousands of low-income students have been provided helmets and learned from police and medical personnel how important it is to wear them. 

2. VTLF has established two scholarship programs, the Bruce D. Rasmussen Trial Advocacy Scholarship Endowment Fund and the Robert J. Macbeth Jr. Scholarship Fund to benefit law students and lawyers. These programs honor two great lawyers and wonderful human beings while promoting the development of trial skills and professionalism.

3.  VTLF is and has been financial supporters of the Virginia Fair Trial Project, the Virginia Criminal Justice Conference and of the Boy Scouts of America Lawyer of the Year award program.

4.  Are you wondering yet what is the fourth reason why you should support the VTLF? It’s because none of these important programs can go forward without your help. VTLF is a 501(c)(3) non-profit charitable foundation and like all such organizations, this one needs your contributions and pledges to do the good work it must do. What makes this Foundation different is that it is run by trial lawyers for the benefit of the public and the profession.

It’s easy to help. To make your tax deductible contribution, please call or e-mail VTLA at (804) 343-1143, jharris@vtla.com.

Please include the VTLF in your list of must support causes, it does work we can all be proud to support. 


VTL Foundation History

The Virginia Trial Lawyers Foundation, a non-profit tax-exempt 501 (c) (3) corporation was incorporated in 1988 as the Distinguished Service Education Foundation by the Virginia Trial Lawyers Association (VTLA). The Foundation’s goals include promoting public understanding of the law, providing scholarships to persons studying law, providing a forum for public debate to promote understanding of the law, and preparing presentations and printed and audio-visual materials to describe the working of the judicial system.

The Foundations’ initial project was production of “The Road to Virginia Justice,” in 1989. That project, funded by the State Justice Institute, developed teaching materials and a videotape used by Virginia middle and high school teachers and volunteer lawyers to emphasize that the rights and privileges of living in a free society create a duty to participate as responsible citizens. The project accomplished that by showing the consequences of drunk driving within the civil and criminal justice systems. In 2002, through a grant from the Virginia Law Foundation and contributions from VTLA member law firms, the Foundation and the VTLA Young Trial Lawyers Section, updated the programs’ teaching materials and video.  In July 2003, the work done to produce that update was recognized when the VTLA Young Trial Lawyers Section received the Robert J. Bonsignore Public Service Award from the Association of Trial Lawyers of America.

Foundation projects have included raising funds and training attorney volunteers to support Trial Lawyers Care, an organization committed to providing pro bono representation under the September 11th Victims Compensation Act to those injured and to the families of those killed in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States. For that effort, the Foundation was presented with an Award of Merit by the Virginia State Bar Conference of Local Bar Associations.

The Foundation has also worked to raise funds to support the Bicycle Helmet Program, a Program designed to present Bicycle Helmets and bicycle safety information to low-income elementary school students.  Over the past several years, several hundred children in Virginia have received helmets they otherwise could not afford and heard from the police department, safety experts and medical professionals on how to wear those helmets and why it is critical that they be worn.

The Foundation, in partnership with the Virginia Trial Lawyers Association, the Virginia Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the Virginia Citizens United for the Rehabilitation of Errants, the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy, and the Mid-Atlantic Juvenile Defender Center, established the Virginia Indigent Defense Coalition (VIDC), now the Virginia Fair Trial Project (VFTP.)  VFTP, funded largely by grants from the Open Society Institute and the Public Welfare Foundation, seeks to improve the quality of defense services for the indigent by enhancing standards of representation and increasing resources and funding available to counsel indigent defendants in Virginia’s juvenile and criminal justice systems. During the past several years, VFTP has played a prominent role in increasing fees paid to and developing fee waivers for court appointed counsel representing indigent defendants in criminal cases

In 2003, the Foundation established the Robert J. Macbeth, Jr. Scholarship Fund to commemorate Bob Macbeth, a great trial lawyer and leader and an active VTLA Board member and ATLA Minority Caucus Representative. Contributions to this Fund provide for payment of expenses incurred by an eligible individual attending training through The Virginia College of Trial Advocacy.

In 2004, the Foundation established the Bruce D. Rasmussen Trial Advocacy Scholarship Endowment Fund to commemorate one of the greatest trial lawyers in the history of the Commonwealth, a VTLA and Southern Trial Lawyers Past President, and a man who shared his special humor and joy of life with all who knew or knew of him. The Scholarship Endowment Fund is designed to support law students in Virginia or adjacent state Law Schools who are committed to a career in trial advocacy, with particular emphasis on a focus on personal injury law. The Fund will also be used to support attendance at trial advocacy training provided through The Virginia College of Trial Advocacy and attendance at the VTLA Annual Convention. 

Also in 2004, the Foundation established the Richard E. Railey, Sr. Memorial Fund. Mr. Railey was both a link to VTLA’s past, having been instrumental in the founding of the Association in 1959, as well as the man who most warmly welcomed newcomers to the VTLA family for the next 45 years. Dick Railey was President of VTLA in 1972-73 and attended its Board of Governor meetings up through the time of his passing at the age of 82.  Dick Railey was a leader in the trial bar, a leader in his community and a true gentleman in the best tradition of that word.

In recent years, the Foundation has also supported the work of the Virginia Criminal Justice Conference and the Lawyer of the Year Luncheon of the Boy Scouts of America.

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