Heidi W. Abbott J.D. ’91 Receives Law School Association’s Citizen-Lawyer Award

  • Honored for Public Service
    Honored for Public Service  Dean Davison M. Douglas presented the 2017 Citizen-Lawyer Award to alumna Heidi W. Abbott during the Law School's Diploma Ceremony.  Photo by Odd Moxie
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The William & Mary Law School Association honored Heidi W. Abbott J.D. ’91 with the 2017 Citizen-Lawyer Award during the Law School's Diploma Ceremony on May 14. The award is the association’s highest recognition and is given annually to a graduate or friend of the Law School who has made "a lifetime commitment to citizenship and leadership." Abbott practices law at Hunton & Williams in Richmond, where she specializes in civic engagement, government relations, and external affairs.

Dean Davison M. Douglas presented the award to Abbott. He commended her as  an accomplished, highly respected attorney who is passionately dedicated to public service.

The Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities, for example, honored Abbott with the Richmond Humanitarian Award in 2014 and the citation noted that she “touches many aspects of Richmond life with her compassion and generous spirit.” The award recognized her efforts as chairman of the board of the Richmond Police Foundation to raise funds for a Violence Free Zone at George Wythe High School and for an initiative that provided homeless teenagers with dress clothes for their high school graduations. In 2007, the Richmond Peace Education Center recognized her with a Peacemaker of the Year Award for her contributions as co-founder of the Not with These Hands organization, which is dedicated to reducing violence in the Richmond community.

Abbott has received numerous other recognitions including the Governor of Virginia’s 2012 Outstanding Adult Volunteer Award, the 2014 Ukrop Community Vision Award from Leadership Metro Richmond, and the 2016 YWCA Outstanding Woman Award in the Human Relations & Faith category.

She currently serves as chairman of the Commonwealth of Virginia’s Board for Juvenile Justice, and is a member of numerous other boards including, for example, the Board of Commissioners of the City of Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority, the Maggie L. Walker Initiative Citizens Advisory Board, and the Board of Directors of the United Way of Greater Richmond & Petersburg.

Abbott reminded the J.D. and LL.M. graduates in her remarks at the ceremony that they were inheritors of the school tradition of becoming citizen lawyers. Public service “doesn’t necessarily have to take an enormous amount of time,” she said, and every act to serve others, however modest, contributes to the greater good. “If you start now and erase that time hurdle in your mind,” she said, “you will have a much richer practice, you will be a much better lawyer, and most importantly— for those in our community, our society, and in the world—we will be so much better off for it.”

Abbott earned an undergraduate degree at Hamilton College and an M.A. in Anthropology at the University of Virginia.

The concept of the citizen lawyer is rooted in Thomas Jefferson's original mission for the Law School that he created in 1779 at William & Mary. Jefferson and the man he recruited to establish the school, his mentor George Wythe, wanted students not only to be skilled practitioners of the law, but also leaders for the common good of their communities, states and nation.

About William & Mary Law School

Thomas Jefferson founded William & Mary Law School in 1779 to train leaders for the new nation. Now in its third century, America's oldest law school continues its historic mission of educating citizen lawyers who are prepared both to lead and to serve.