The Richmond Bar Association has selected McGuireWoods partner George Keith Martin and deputy general counsel Barbara Ann Williams for its prestigious Hill-Tucker Public Service Award and Hunter W. Martin Professionalism Award, respectively. The RBA will honor Martin and Williams on Oct. 29, 2020.
The Hill-Tucker Public Service Award is presented annually to a bar member for conspicuous public service beyond the practice of law. The Hunter W. Martin Professionalism Award recognizes members whose careers exemplify the conduct and high ideals embodied in the bar’s Principles of Professionalism.
Martin is the managing partner of McGuireWoods’ Richmond office, where he focuses his practice on construction, commercial real estate, real estate finance and local government law.
A bar member nominating Martin wrote, “George has served his community and the Commonwealth in so many capacities. Most notable was his extraordinary leadership as rector of his alma mater, the University of Virginia. He led the board with courage, character, and commitment during a time of controversy and transition.”
In 2011, Martin was appointed to the University of Virginia board of visitors by Gov. Bob McDonnell and in 2013 became the first African-American to serve as the rector. Martin currently serves on UVa’s Miller Center Governing Council, Jefferson Scholars Foundation board and School of Architecture Foundation board.
A tireless advocate for diversity and inclusion, Martin last year served on the executive committee that helped organize programs for the Commemoration of the First African Landing in Hampton, Virginia, where the first enslaved African men and women were brought to the English colonies 400 years earlier. He also served on the 400 Years of African American History Commission.
As McGuireWoods’ deputy general counsel, Williams advises the firm on professional conduct and risk management matters. She helps develop firm policies and procedures that foster compliance with the Rules of Professional Conduct, applicable laws and regulations in every jurisdiction where McGuireWoods has an office, as well as client requirements.
As bar counsel for the Virginia State Bar, Williams managed the bar’s investigation and prosecution of attorney misconduct cases and was the spokesperson for the attorney disciplinary system. She also handled attorney misconduct and impairment matters, and helped clear a backlog of old cases.
While she served as bar counsel, the Virginia State Bar proposed significant changes to the procedures for disciplining, suspending and disbarring attorneys, which the Supreme Court of Virginia adopted. Chief among the rule changes were opening district committee hearings to the public to afford new transparency to bar proceedings, new procedures for dealing with impaired attorneys and a process for administratively suspending attorneys who refused to cooperate with misconduct investigations.
At the end of her tenure as bar counsel, Virginia Lawyers Helping Lawyers awarded Williams its North Star Award for her early recognition of the increased incidence of mental health issues among lawyers and other legal professionals in Virginia and the need to find more effective ways to address those issues. She subsequently joined the Lawyers Helping Lawyers board of directors and served two terms as president of the nonprofit organization. She remains actively engaged in wellness issues.
In nominating Williams, one bar member wrote, “Barbara’s philosophy and efforts changed fundamentally the concept of lawyer discipline by going beyond accountability and enforcement of the rules, but also addressing the causes of lawyer misconduct with empathy and compassion while striving to protect clients and the public. Her contributions are immeasurable.”