Donald G. Owens, a 1971 alumnus of William & Mary Law School and a partner in the Richmond office of Troutman Sanders, received the Law School's Citizen Lawyer Award during commencement exercises Sunday, May 15. The award was presented by Taylor Reveley, dean of the Law School. The award goes annually to a graduate or friend of the Law School who stands squarely in the Jeffersonian tradition of outstanding citizenship and leadership.
"Our concept of the citizen lawyer has its roots in the original intent of Thomas Jefferson for the law school he created at William & Mary in 1779," said Reveley. "Jefferson and the man he recruited to get the school going, George Wythe, wanted students trained to be not simply skilled practitioners of law but also leaders for the common good of their communities, states and nation," Reveley explained. Among the school's first students was John Marshall, later the great Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court - a paradigm of the citizen lawyer.
"Donnie Owens has lived the life of the citizen lawyer so prized at William & Mary," said Reveley, "through his service in the army, his years spent as a lawyer in the public sector, the collegial and upright way in which he has practiced law in the private sector, his willingness to lend his legal talent pro bono where needed, and his involvement in countless worthy causes."
"I am honored to be this year's recipient of the William & Mary Law School Citizen Lawyer Award," Owens said. "I know many of the prior recipients and it is a great honor to be included with this group of attorneys. It has been my privilege to devote part of my career to public service and to my community. I am most appreciative of having these opportunities and am indebted to the Law School which has made them possible."
Owens graduated from the College of William & Mary with a bachelor of science degree and received his juris doctor degree from William & Mary Law School where he was an associate editor of the William and Mary Law Review. Between college and law school, Owens served in the U.S. Army as 1st Lieutenant. After law school, he became Senior Branch Attorney with the U. S. Securities & Exchange Commission. Owens worked as Assistant Attorney General in the Office of the Virginia Attorney General and then as Deputy General Counsel of the Virginia State Corporation Commission prior to joining Mays & Valentine, the predecessor to his current firm, Troutman Sanders LLP. At Troutman Sanders, Owens specializes in the areas of utilities law, administrative law, and insurance and securities law.
Owens was a founding member of the Richmond-area Habitat for Humanity chapter in 1987 and served as legal counsel to the board for seven years. He served as a member of the State Advisory Council to the National Legal Services Corporation. Owens has served as elder, deacon, Sunday school teacher, and moderator of the Stewardship Committee at Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church, and an organizer and volunteer for the CARITAS Program-Congregations Around Richmond to Assure Shelter-where he continues to volunteer with fellow members of the Second Presbyterian Church of Richmond. Since 2003, he has volunteered with Central Virginia Legal Aid Society through the Richmond Protective Order Project to represent women who have been the victims of domestic violence.
Owens served on the Board of Wilderness Alternatives which helps raise money to send troubled young men to the Blackwater Outdoor Adventures Program where, guided by counselors and therapists, they are sent on outdoor trips all over the world. He also has acted as a mentor to students from Swansboro Elementary School since 2002.
Dean William Spong said during his last commencement as dean: "Jefferson's idea of taking the study of law away from the apprentice model and into the academic setting was . . . to assure that the practicing lawyer would be a whole person, with an understanding and appreciation of many things beyond the artisan demands of a skilled trade." He further stressed each lawyer's obligation to public service "in its broadest context," including "much more than elected public office."
Past recipients of the prestigious Citizen Lawyer Award besides Dean Spong, have been James Mathews Pope '78, Anita Owings Poston '74, Professors Emeriti John D. Donaldson '63 and John M. Levy, R. Harvey Chappell, Jr.'50, Ernest W. Goodrich and Herbert V. Kelly, Sr. '45.