Irving Blank, L'67

Virginia State Bar president focuses attention on judicial vacancies

January 13, 2011

When Irving Blank, L’67, was a young lawyer he studied court dockets to find out when some of Richmond’s best trial lawyers were scheduled to appear. “I would make time to go down and watch them,” he recalled. Today, Blank may be the object of a young lawyer’s admiration and attention himself.

In his 40-plus years as a personal injury attorney in Richmond, Blank has tried—and won—more than his share of cases. “I still love it,” he said. “Every trial is different. I have never been in a trial where I didn’t learn something.”

Blank’s love and respect for the law make him a natural in his current role as president of the Council of the Virginia State Bar (VSB), the state agency that regulates Virginia’s 45,000 lawyers.

Blank has wanted to be a lawyer since he was a 12-year-old boy growing up in Danville, Va. He took the fast track to law school, being accepted at the University of Richmond School of Law after only three years of undergraduate work at Virginia Tech. His first year of law school was credited as his last year of undergraduate study.

Today, Blank practices with Paris Blank LLP in Richmond. Among the highlights of his career are Memco Stores Inc. v. Yeatman, a significant slip-and-fall case, and Lee v. Southland Corp., “one of the first cases in America that allowed punitive damages in a civil case using the criminal law process to collect a civil debt,” he said.

Blank has long been active in Richmond’s legal community, serving on the board of Central Virginia Legal Aid Society for more than 25 years. He was a member of the Virginia Bar Association commission that developed the Virginia Principles of Professionalism, and is a member of the American College of Trial Lawyers’ Legal Ethics Professionalism Committee. He also is on the faculty for the Virginia State Bar’s professionalism course.

Blank first became active in the VSB Council in 2003, when he became concerned about the judicial reappointment process in Virginia. And while the reappointment process has not yet changed, Blank said Virginia now faces another larger problem—judicial vacancies.

Last winter Virginia lawmakers voted to suspend filling vacant non-appellate judgeships and clerkships to help close a $4.2 billion budget gap. “The hiring freeze on court personnel has resulted in a terrible situation in terms of the public being served by the courts,” Blank said. “Cases are taking much longer to get to trial.” As president of the Virginia State Bar, Blank hopes to continue to draw attention to these two issues while keeping the organization on track.