“I think it’s really important as a law student to do something outside of the legal world,” says Liz Burneson, L’18. “It brings a fresh perspective,” she explains. Burneson has sought out fresh perspectives in more than a few creative ways during her law school career – including most recently as chair of the Governor’s Advisory Board on Service and Volunteerism.

Burneson has always had a passion for public service, politics and campaigns, and government affairs. Her job as a government affairs specialist at Spotts Fain kept her firmly entrenched in that world. Before too long, though, “I realized that the part I liked about lobbying was the advocacy: Putting together a case for or against a bill and presenting that case to a legislator or some other stakeholder,” said Burneson. “Unfortunately, that’s not as much the job of the lobbyist anymore, and I realized the lawyers working around me were getting to do the fun advocacy work.” And that’s where law school came in.

In the Richmond Law community, Burneson’s passion for politics has manifested in the form of Public Policy and the Common Good, a society co-founded with Andrew Hemby, L’19. “We enjoyed talking about politics, and realized there wasn’t much of a space for that,” said Burneson. “We wanted a space where people could talk about policy issues, [and] discuss them in a deeper, more meaningful way.”

Now that she’s on her way to becoming a lawyer, such conversations take on new meaning. “As lawyers, you’re going to work with more attorneys than you’re going to work against, and it will make you a better lawyer if you can understand the other side," said Burneson. 

Alongside her policy work, Burneson has continued to seek out outlets for community service – leading her to apply to apply for a volunteer leadership position in Governor Terry McAulliffe’s administration. The Board on Service and Volunteerism was a natural fit. Burneson was appointed a member of the board in 2014 and chair in 2015. The group is the state commission for AmeriCorps, and hosts an annual conference on volunteer management as well as a celebration of volunteerism. In her own life, Burneson has volunteered with Greater Richmond SCAN, Metro Richmond Area Young Democrats, the Equality Bar Association, and the Virginia Service Foundation.

To be sure, there are a lot of practical considerations to Burneson’s “extra-curricular” interests: being plugged into the community, for example, and developing new connections. But it’s also about a chance for those fresh perspectives, and providing a window not only on the “really good work that people are doing, but also how people are struggling and suffering.” Plus, from a professional wellness point of view, “I also think attorneys do better work when they’re happy.” For Burneson, civic engagement is one path to being a happy lawyer.