In 1893 Belva Lockwood became the first woman to be licensed to practice law in Virginia. Her license was taken away the following year because she was not a “male citizen.”
In the early 1970’s, a small group of lawyers began meeting over lunch to discuss what it was like to be a woman practicing in Richmond. The group included Virginia Hackney, Phoebe Hall, Gammiel Poindexter and Tonita Warren. They invited all Richmond-area women licensed to practice law to join them for lunch at the Downtown Club, where they were often greeted as the “debutantes.” The informal lunches continued through 1974, when these lawyers decided to form an independent bar association – the Metropolitan Richmond Women’s Bar Association. While the association initially provided both social and networking opportunities, it has expanded the scope of its activities to include educating members about legislative issues, endorsing candidates for judgeships, sponsoring public service projects within the community, and providing continuing legal education opportunities for its members.
As the MRWBA’s activities increased, so did its membership from less than 20 original members to approximately 250 active members. Recently, the association’s members have included a former attorney general of the Commonwealth of Virginia, justices of the Supreme Court of Virginia, a candidate for the United States Senate, members of the Virginia General Assembly, judges and dedicated professionals in private practice, academia, public service, government service, legal aid and corporations, as well as law students.
Today the association supports and promotes the personal satisfaction and professional advancement of women in the legal profession. Through networking, education, social programs and public service projects, the association advances into the 21st century.
Luncheon meetings of the founding members began. 1972
The MRWBA was officially founded. 1974
The MRWBA and the Virginia Women Attorneys Association hosted a reception honoring 87 women attorneys in Virginia for achievements in the business and legal communities. 1986
The MRWBA and Hunton & Williams hosted a reception celebrating the appointment of Ruth Bader Ginsburg to the United States Supreme Court. 1993
The MRWBA sponsored its first annual Women of Achievement Awards. 1994
The MRWBA launched its mentorship program. The MRWBA was incorporated as a Virginia corporation. 1996
The IRS designated the MRWBA a Section 501(c)(6) non-profit association. 1997
The MRWBA sponsored its first annual Legislative Luncheon. 2000
The MRWBA hosted a Debate between the Candidates for Attorney General of Virginia: Jerry Kilgore and Donald McEachin. 2001
The MRWBA hosted a Debate between the Candidates for Attorney General of Virginia: Bob McDonnell and Creigh Deeds. 2005
The MRWBA hosted a debate between the five mayoral candidates for Richmond: Dwight Jones, William Pantele, Robert Grey, Paul Goldman, and Lawrence Williams. 2008
The MRWBA celebrates its 35th Anniversary with a kick-off reception with the Honorable Sandra Day O'Connor, Associate Justice (Retired) of the Supreme Court of the United States, and a luncheon with the Honorable Cleo E. Powell, Judge of the Court of Appeals of Virginia. 2009