Law Alumni Leading the Way in the Virginia State Bar

Chidi James

George Mason University Scalia Law graduates certainly made their mark at the June Virginia State Bar (VSB) annual meeting. Chidi James (’01) became the first African American male president-elect in the VSB’s 84 years. Graduates Rex Flynn (’08) and Jessica Choate (’22) received special recognitions for their service – Rex for his work with several specialty bar associations and Jessica for her dedication to pro bono work.

Graduate Chidi James is a natural leader. His long record of public service makes him the perfect person to be the Virginia State Bar Association’s first African American male president-elect. In law school, Chidi invested in the law school community from his first year. He became a founding member and president of the Trial Advocacy Association and Student Bar Association. After law school, Chidi served as a law clerk on the Arlington County Circuit Court and then went on to complete the Judge Advocate General School Course at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama. He has served as a Staff Judge Advocate for twenty years. Leaving his mark on the vibrant Northern Virginia local legal community, Chidi has served as the president of the Board of Legal Services of Northern Virginia, the Northern Virginia Black Attorneys Association and on the boards of the Fairfax Law Foundation and Old Dominion Bar Association. He also continues to coach trial teams at Scalia Law.

Chidi joined Blankingship & Keith in 2003 and is skilled in a range of civil litigation matters, including personal injury, wrongful death, and products liability. As reported in the Virginia Lawyers Weekly, Chidi’s overarching priority for the VSB will be to expand the both the diversity and active membership of the bar: “’Virginia has approximately 32,500 active members of the bar and the VSB is going to need more volunteers, more committee participation in the future.’” Chidi plans to spend significant time visiting local bar associations to tap into their energetic leaders and the Commonwealth’s law schools, including Scalia Law.

Graduate Rex Flynn is one of those energetic leaders in the local bar association space with whom Chidi will engage. Indeed the two have worked together in many bar and Scalia Law capacities over the years. Rex has served as the president of the Northern Virginia Black Attorneys’ Association and the Arlington County Bar Association, as well as general counsel for the National Hampton Alumni Association. Beginning in May, he began his service as president-elect of the Old Dominion Bar Association and as a representative on the Virginia State Bar Council. For his commitment to all of the area’s local bar associations, Rex received the Specialty Bar Leader of the Year award by the VSB’s Conference of Local and Specialty Bars. The award recognizes lawyer volunteers who lead local bar associations and “offer important services to the bench, bar, and public.” Rex is a solo practitioner who focuses on criminal defense.

Blazing her own path, new graduate Jessica Choate received the Oliver White Hill Law Student Pro Bono Award at this year’s VSB meeting. This award was established 20 years ago by the VSB “to honor extraordinary law school achievement in the areas of pro bono publico and under-compensated public service work in Virginia.” Professor and Scalia Law graduate Mike Davis (’79) nominated Jessica for the award: “There has never been a student at this school who has had such a dramatic impact on our pro bono and public service initiatives. Jess has assured that her large footprint here continues, as she has actively and successfully recruited other first and second-year students to continue her successes at the school after she graduates.” As a first-year student, Jessica aspired to strengthen Scalia Law students’ commitment to pro bono and public service. Jessica herself worked over 600 hours assisting underserved populations, and she helped establish a system whereby students could pledge, record, and be recognized at graduation for their pro bono hours. Professors Davis and Mark Cummings (’78) were both on hand to witness Jessica receive this prestigious award. Beginning in August, Jessica will be clerking for Scalia Law graduate and newly appointed Fairfax Circuit Court Judge Christie Leary (’00).