Monthly Member Spotlight of Fairfax Law Foundation

At ShounBach, our divorce lawyers have over 200 years of combined legal experience. Our firm has been in existence for over 45 years, making it soundly established and proven in its success. Our attorneys have had the honor of being included in such prestigious lists as Super Lawyers® and Best Lawyers in America ®. As well as being recognized as top lawyers by a multitude of publications including Washingtonian Magazine, Northern Virginia Magazine, Ten Leaders©, and the Washington Post. We have lawyers who have also received an AV Preeminent® rating by Martindale-Hubbell®.

Our firm has more divorce lawyers listed in Ten Leaders© than any other law firm in the nation. Our firm has also been consistently included in the list of Top Law Firms by US News and World Report©. Given that we are one of the largest law firms dedicated solely to Family Law in Virginia, finding a Northern Virginia divorce attorney perfectly suited to represent you should not be a problem. We have the experience and courtroom power to advocate effectively.

If you did not practice law, what would you do?
Carrie Patterson – I would be a weatherwoman. As far as I can tell, it’s the only job that you can have, be wrong half the time, and still keep your job.

Elizabeth Bookwalter – Yacht Captain
Susan Butler – Work at a flower shop/nursery
Hayden Lee – Become an architect
Rebecca Neville – Teacher
Albert Bonin – Be a builder or carpenter. At least you can see the fruits of your labor.
Sarah Knapp – Work in Public Affairs/Government
Roberta Henault – Something artistic – a painter, landscape architect, interior designer or similar.

What was your first job?
Carrie Patterson – I worked the counter of a Bruegger’s Bagels in West Hartford, Connecticut
Elizabeth Bookwalter – Barista at a local coffee shop
Susan Butler – Paper route
Hayden Lee – Worked at a shoe store.
Rebecca Neville – Lifeguard
Albert Bonin – Liquor store clerk. Yes, I use to do wine tastings at 12 years old. My grandfather owned the store.
Sarah Knapp – Ticket sales at my one-screen hometown movie theater but since that was only Friday and Saturday nights, I soon after got a second job as a Subway Sandwich Artist.
Roberta Henault – I worked as a file clerk in a law office.

If you could choose a superpower, what would you choose?
Carrie Patterson: Instant Virus Eradication!
Elizabeth Bookwalter: Teleportation
Susan Butler – Hyper-speed
Hayden Lee – Being a morning person.
Rebecca Neville – Teleportation
Albert Bonin – Giving other people superpowers.
Sarah Knapp – Flying seems like it would be wonderful.
Roberta Henault – I would have the power to cause the coronavirus to vamoosh off the face of the planet!

What was your favorite class in law school?
Carrie Patterson – Civil Procedure
Elizabeth Bookwalter – Comparative Tax with Professor Pike
Susan Butler – ADR Seminar
Hayden Lee – Evidence
Rebecca Neville – Juvenile Law
Albert Bonin – Law Office Management. It’s the only class I received a decent grade.
Sarah Knapp – Family Law
Roberta Henault – Tax

Name one thing that we would be surprised to learn about.
Carrie Patterson – I am an amateur Etch-A-Sketch artist
Elizabeth Bookwalter – I was inspired to go to law school (7 years after graduating college) after working with doctors who helped their patients navigate through some of the most difficult times and decisions of the patients’ lives. I wanted to find a way to provide that same service through the law.
Susan Butler – I was a game show contestant.
Hayden Lee – I love the Grateful Dead.
Rebecca Neville – I have a sun allergy.

Albert Bonin – If you know me there would not be anything that would surprise you.
Sarah Knapp – I was the Drum Major of my high school marching band and we performed at Giants Stadium, Disney World and in an Inaugural Parade.

Roberta Henault – My first “career” job was working for the National Academy of Science, National Research Council, Transportation Research Board, in Washington, D.C., following my graduation from college. We managed/administered transportation research programs. As a result, I have knowledge of some strange facts about roads, highways, bridges and the like.

Why did you choose to donate money/time to the Fairfax Law Foundation?
Carrie Patterson – Particularly in family law, there are so many deserving members of our community who simply do not have the resources to hire lawyers, and often their need for legal protection is greatest. It is incredibly rewarding to be part of a mission to help our community obtain access to the justice system that we all need and deserve.

Elizabeth Bookwalter – Legal services should be accessible for all, regardless of economic status. No one should be stuck in an abusive or unwanted situation, or face losing custody of their children, simply because their partner has more money, education, or access to resources than they do.

Susan Butler – Access to justice is crucial.

Hayden Lee – FLF provides essential support for legal services in the community.

Rebecca Neville – I think, particularly now, it is vitally important to ensure the continuation of organizations fighting for equal access to justice.

Albert Bonin – You mean I had a choice.! Bob Shoun never told me I had a choice.

Sarah Knapp – Because of all the important work the Foundation does for our community.

Roberta Henault – Now more than ever, less fortunate folks need assistance with the legal issues they are facing. ShounBach has a long history of supporting the Fairfax Law Foundation and I was strongly in favor of continuing to fund the Foundation and their programs, so that legal services can be provided to those who do not have the means to obtain services for a fee.

Who is the legal practitioner that has had the biggest impact on your legal career and why?
Carrie Patterson – My mentor, Arlene Starace. I was her associate for over five years and learned a tremendous amount about how to be patient, compassionate, but also very direct with clients about their cases. I still think about how she would handle an issue in a case before I make a decision about what to do.

Elizabeth Bookwalter – Carrie Patterson. Carrie has been a mentor since my first day of practicing family law. She not only taught me the fundamentals of practicing family law but the importance of taking the time to really get to know my clients and understand what their values and priorities are. I am a much better advocate for my clients as a result of her.

Susan Butler – Jim Rider was an attorney I worked for early in my career. He was earnest, kind, and always tried to take the high road and encouraged his clients to do the same. He was a wonderful mentor and friend.

Hayden Lee – My former colleagues at Feil, Pettit and Williams. I learned firm, but respectful, advocacy, and an awareness of how a lawyer can affect clients’ and other’s lives, through their mentorship after my clerkship.

Rebecca Neville – Judge Michael R. Pearson, Prince George’s County Circuit Court. He exemplified to me the importance of a measured level of justice and the real impact that a good advocate can make. He taught me that being yourself in the courtroom is the most powerful tool and that has entirely shaped my approach to cases and litigation.

Albert Bonin – Robert T Hinds Jr. . He was the owner of my first family law firm in Colorado. One time a judge asked me for my authority, and I said to her, “Before I left the office I asked Mr. Hinds if he believed the court had the authority and he said yes”. That was all the judge needed. Need I say more.

Sarah Knapp – Judge William D. Hamblin from Prince William County Circuit Court. I was his last law clerk before he retired. His dedication to the law and legal system and his commitment to reaching the right decision every time will always stay with me.

Roberta Henault – David Spratt. David is now a Professor at American University Washington College of Law but was previously an attorney with The Lewis Law Firm during my tenure at that firm. David taught me all about legal writing, including how to write agreements that our clients could easily understand and carry out, and I rely on all the advice he gave me to this day.

Taylor Hugyley Powers PLLC opened its doors on February 1, 2019, and its attorneys represent clients throughout Northern Virginia in family law related matters. While the firm is relatively new, Leigh, Kim, and Debra began practicing law together seventeen years ago, and their friendship, dedication to the legal community, and love for what they do has been growing ever since. They are all long-time, active members of the Fairfax Bar Association and other local and specialty bar organizations. Taylor Hguley Powers PLLC was honored to received the 2019 Fairfax Bar Association’s Pro Bono Law Firm of the Year Award in its first year of practice, and each member of the firm has received numerous accolades from the legal community. While they have different pastimes and amusements, the attorneys and their office manager enjoy spending time with their families when not working.

If you did not practice law, what would you do?
Leigh – “In reality, I would be a teacher or a social worker. In my dream world after winning the lottery and becoming independently wealthy, I’d split my time between 3 jobs – 1) pro bono legal work, 2) a sea turtle rescue lady at the beach and 3) a Starbucks barista. Oh, and a Williamsburg tour guide. Are 4 jobs too much?”

What was your first job?
Debra – “I worked at Telegraph Road Pharmacy (on the corner of Telegraph and Farmington Drive) and Hungry Henry’s Pizza (off King’s Highway). Both were Alexandria landmarks forever. Everyone once in awhile, I’ll have a client who also grew up around here, and we’ll start talking about them and compare ‘when I was young’ stories.”

If you could choose a superpower, what would you choose?
Kim says, “My super power would be the ability to function on absolutely no sleep.” Debra replied, “I thought you do that now.”

What was your favorite class in law school?
Debra – “Richard Bonnie’s Criminal Law – whatever variation. Professor Bonnie made me want to learn, made me want to read those ridiculously long assignments every class. He is simply brilliant.”

Name one thing that we would be surprised to learn about.
Leigh – “I speak Spanish proficiently. I began studying Spanish in middle school, minored in Spanish and studied abroad in Valencia, Spain during college, and have spent years trying to keep my Spanish up-to-date through internships, travel, and pro bono cases.”

Why did you choose to donate money/time to the Fairfax Law Foundation?
Firm – If you look at the Foundation’s website, somewhere very early it states, the FLF “works tirelessly to improve the public’s understanding of and access to the justice system.” As attorneys, is there any cause more worthy of our time and money? So many of the Foundation’s programs are near and dear to us – the Court Tour Program, the Law Day Weiner Roast, Conciliation Program, Will on Wheels, the Neighborhood Outreach Program, etc. Becoming a Firm Fellow was an easy decision for us.

Who is the legal practitioner that has had the biggest impact on your legal career and why?
Kim – “Jane Roush, for whom I clerked after law school, has had and continues to have the biggest impact on my career by showing me the value of working hard while finding balance in my life, paying attention to detail, staying calm under pressure, and taking what life gives you with grace and class—all while never taking myself too seriously!”

Attorney Chidi James is a trial lawyer and a partner with the law firm of Blankingship & Keith, P.C. in Fairfax Virginia. His practice consists mostly of serious personal injury cases including wrongful death, product liability, and inadequate security cases. Mr. James joined Blankingship & Keith as an associate in 2003, after serving as a Judicial Law Clerk to the judges of the Arlington County Circuit Court and completing the Judge Advocate General School Course at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama. He has served in the National Guard for 23 years and continues to serve as a member of the District of Columbia Air National Guard.

He is licensed to practice law in the Commonwealth of Virginia and the District of Columbia. He is the former President of the Northern Virginia Black Attorneys Association, a board member of the Virginia Trial Lawyers Association, former Vice-Chair of the Virginia State Bar’s Standing Committee on Lawyer Discipline, and a current elected member of the Virginia State Bar Council representing the 19th Judicial Circuit. Mr. James serves on the Board Fairfax Law Foundation and the as the Immediate Past Chair of the Virginia State Bar Diversity Conference. He also serves as President-elect of Legal Services of Northern Virginia (LSNV). He is a former faculty member of the Virginia State Bar Henry L. Carrico Professionalism Course and a former adjunct faculty member at the George Washington School of Law in Washington, D.C.

In his private life, Mr. James is a member of the Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church and Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. He also serves on the Board of the Gainesville Basketball Association, the Mount Pleasant Baptist Community Development Corporation, and has volunteered as a coach for multiple youth sports teams. Mr. James is married to a local psychologist, Dr. Faith Jackson James, and has three children, ages 23, 19, and 17.

If you did not practice law, what would you do?
I would teach high school and coach either football or basketball.

What was your first job?
I sold newspapers outside of a grocery store in Houston, Texas when I was 12 years old.

If you could choose a superpower, what would you choose?
Flight.

What was your favorite class in law school?
My favorite class was Tort with Profess Krauss.

Name one thing that we would be surprised to learn about.
I have flown an F-16 fighter jet, the D model, even though I am not a pilot. It was an incentive ride that I got when I served as a member of the Virginia Air National Guard. My pilot “Bear” McAtee actually gave me control of the plane shortly after takeoff. We pulled a 9G move and I did not get sick until we were on our way back to the base about 45 minutes into the flight.

Why did you choose to donate money/time to the Fairfax Law Foundation?
The law foundation’s focus on helping the community – with the legally related education programs, court tours, and pro-bono efforts – make the legal system more accessible to all people. I would like to see more ethnic minorities represented in our profession and in our courts. I see a direct connection between the outreach that we do in the local schools to increasing the number of minority students who will consider the law as a profession and eventually diversify our bar and our bench. This will, in turn, make the justice system more fair, equitable and welcoming, because it will increase the faith that the community has in the justice system.

Who is the legal practitioner that has had the biggest impact on your legal career and why?
This is a tough question. Retired judge Stan Klein gave me an internship in his chambers when I was a law student and has mentored me over the past 20 years. Judge Gerald Lee mentored me through bar associations and encouraged me professionally and personally since I was a law student. Judge William T. Newman, hired me as a judicial law clerk in Arlington as my first job out of law school and has mentored me as well. These gentlemen have definitely shaped my professional career; however, the people who probably had the biggest impact on my career are my partners Peter Everett and Robert Stoney. They hired me as an associate to do personal injury work and have coached, cheered, co-counseled, and mentored me for the past 17 years.

Aaron has practiced family law since 2006 with a focus on complex divorce litigation primarily involving highly contested matters. Aaron sits on the Executive Committee of the Fairfax Bar Association Board of Directors. He is a current member and former Chair of the Fairfax Bar Association Domestic Relations Subcommittee and is currently the chairman of the FBA Judicial Funding Taskforce. Aaron lives in Alexandria with his wife Susan and their boys, Henry and Brooks.

If you did not practice law, what would you do?
If confined to realistic possibilities that exclude professional athlete, travel writer, or being retired, I’ll go with high school teacher. Probably history or literature.

What was your first job?
I had a lawn-mowing “business” that funded my comic book and baseball card collections, and Slurpee expense account up through my junior high years.

If you could choose a superpower, what would you choose?
Super strength. Mr. Incredible is to coolest guy out there to both my boys and they refer to the “World’s Strongest Man” competitors as “World’s Greatest Men.” Since they’re both still young and small enough to think I’m actually strong, super-strength would take care of that ever-shortening window.

What was your favorite class in law school?
Advanced Family Law Seminar with Professor Peter Swisher. It was a very small class resulting in a lot of focused interaction with and attention from someone who was a mentor and friend of mine.

Name one thing that we would be surprised to learn about.
As recently as my early 30’s (so no longer all that recent) I played on a nationally-ranked wiffle ball team. Though my primary contribution to the team’s success was the quality of beverages I packed in the cooler for Sundays at the park.

Why did you choose to donate money/time to the Fairfax Law Foundation?
The sad fact is that many people who really need legal assistance cannot afford it and the Foundation makes it very easy for those aware of the dilemma to do something about it. And Julie Gerock is very persuasive and more than a little intimidating.

Who is the legal practitioner that has had the biggest impact on your legal career and why?
My wife Susan. She’s why a legal career even became an option because she’s the main reason I passed the bar exam. She would not hang out with me unless and until I finished studying for the day throughout that summer. And ever since she has guided, supported, and focused me through every phase of my career. She’s also significantly better at it than me so there’s the competitive/pride motivation factor.

Rob Worster has been practicing domestic relations and criminal law since 2005. He is a certified Guardian Ad Litem for Children. He also works with the Virginia State Bar teaching professionalism to law students and new Virginia lawyers and serves as Vice Chair of the Lawyer Disciplinary Committee. He serves on the Board of Directors of the Fairfax Bar Association and Fairfax Law Foundation. Additionally, Rob is a member of the Circuit Court Committee, Juvenile, and Domestic Relations Committee, Domestic Relations, Pro Se and Pro Bono Subcommittees as well as the Virginia Trial Lawyers Association. He holds an AV Preeminent Rating from Martindale-Hubbell, the top designation of competence and ethical standards achievable with Martindale-Hubbell. When not practicing law, Rob is a jazz musician, sports coach, woodworker, and stained-glass artist. Rob and his wife are proud veterans of the United States Marine Corps and reside in Fairfax County, Virginia, with their children.

If you did not practice law, what would you do?
“If I could have a second career, I would like to try my hand at architecture. I enjoy creating things and solving problems. It would be nice to have a tangible reflection of my life’s work.”

What was your first job?
“I worked for my great-grandfather performing manual labor for two and a half years in Junior High School. I earned $2.50 an hour and developed a strong work ethic (and appreciation for indoor work).”

If you could choose a superpower, what would you chose?
“I would like to have the ability to turn off my brain at the end of the day so that I did not dream about my cases!”

Favorite class in law school?
“I participated in an externship with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Richmond. Using my third-year certificate, I represented the United States. This was a huge thrill, even if it was for minor misdemeanors committed on Federal Property.”

Name one thing we would be surprised to learn about.
“I have played saxophone for over 35 years. I participate in a weekly jazz combo and perform on occasion.”

Why did you choose to donate money/time to the Fairfax Law Foundation?
“My family feels strongly about showing gratitude for our good fortune through service. Helping the less fortunate in our community is a core value of the Fairfax Law Foundation and we are proud to be a part of that mission.”

Who is the legal practitioner that has had the biggest impact on your legal career and why?
“There are too many influential members of the bar to single out only one attorney who has influenced my career and life. I have had the opportunity to learn from all of my partners, colleagues, and staff at Cooper Ginsberg Gray, PLLC. Additionally, my clients, colleagues, board members, and many judges have contributed to my success. They are all responsible for any good that is done. They have all guided me and helped me to fix mistakes along the path. Some of those lessons were harder to learn than others but they all have contributed to my development. Finally, I am incredibly lucky to have a very supportive and well-loved family.”

Valerie Hughes graduated from George Mason University in 1984 with a B.A. in History and English. For the next 16 years she worked as a paralegal in Fairfax County, primarily in the domestic relations field, with two years in defense contracting. In 2004 she graduated from George Mason University School of Law and passed the Virginia State Bar that same year. In law school, Ms. Hughes was awarded top paper for her domestic relations class, which was taught by the Chief Judge of the Fairfax County Circuit Court. It was the highest grade ever handed out in that class during Judge Dennis Smith’s tenure as a professor. She was also awarded top paper in Pre-Trial practice.

If you did not practice law, what would you do?
“If I wasn’t a lawyer my dream job would be to write trash romance novels while building houses and schools for the poor in Zambia. Or running a tiki bar on the beach.”

What was your first job?

“My first job was selling popcorn and candy at a movie theater when I was 14. Never, ever have them put butter on your popcorn. They never clean the machine. It was a horrible job.”

If you could choose a superpower, what would you chose?
“I would like to be invisible for my superpower so I can just come and go as I please. And spy on people!”

Favorite class in law school?
“My favorite class in law school is kind of an oxymoron, but I guess it would have been Judge Wooldridge’s trial ad class. He’s a doll and he made it so much fun.”

Name one thing we would be surprised to learn about.
“You would be surprised to learn that I played piano for a small Baptist church for 4 years (I was terrible). At the same time, I starred as Abigail in The Crucible in high school and then lied about my age at 18 to get a job as a bartender in Charlottesville. I have many sides to me.”

Why did you choose to donate money/time to the Fairfax Law Foundation?
“I chose to donate to the Law Foundation because of the obvious good they do for the community, both regular and legal. Also Al Bonin and Sharon Nelson sweet-talked me into it!”

Who is legal practitioner that has had the biggest impact on your legal career and why?
“The person with the most impact on my career would obviously be Dick Byrd. I worked with him for years, he suckered me into going to law school and he threw me into a full day trial on my Third Year Practice Certificate. The other would be Judge Stanley Klein who got me involved with the GMU Legal Clinic, and definitely gave me a visible presence in the legal community. He would never hear my cases because I couldn’t resist talking back to him, even in the courtroom. He heard me just once: ‘Ms. Hughes, how long will your legal argument take?’ Me: ‘Depends on how long you argue with me.’ Done and out.”

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