When it comes to Warrenton, Marie Washington can’t say—or do—enough
Published in 2022 Virginia Super Lawyers magazine on May 5, 2022
When she’s not running between the courthouse and her office in Warrenton’s historic district, you might find Marie Washington hammering nails on a local Habitat for Humanity all-woman crew, introducing students to the justice system, or—at the end of the year—standing outside Walmart or Safeway, ringing a bell for the Salvation Army’s annual red-kettle campaign, as she’s done since she was a teen.
At community events, such as Warrenton Town Limits or First Fridays, she’s likely handing out swag and trying to make the law less intimidating for those who stop by her table.
“I like to be open and show them we’re just regular people who have a law degree,” says the Fauquier County native, who practices criminal defense—and pretty much anything else that’s needed by her community.
“It’s like Mayberry here,” she says. “I love helping small businesses and getting to know my clients well. They call you for business issues, then their son gets a DUI, their grandma needs a will. It’s nice to get to know the whole family.”
Washington returned to her hometown directly after getting her J.D. at Washington and Lee University. After seven years with Mark B. Williams & Associates, she decided to hang her own shingle.
As one of few minority women attorneys in Fauquier County, Washington feels called to plant a seed in the minds of girls and minority students: that the law is a possible career path. She conducts a junior judges program in elementary schools, which is designed, she says, to “help students recognize right versus wrong decisions and the impacts on their lives when they’re older.” She also holds summer legal seminars in private and public high schools, and lets students job-shadow her at her firm during career fairs.
“Two weeks ago, a junior from Liberty High came and shadowed us,” she says. “The school counselor said, ‘This is one of our shyest students, and she couldn’t stop talking about it!’ That made me feel good.”
Her efforts haven’t gone unnoticed. Washington’s many recognitions include being named 2018 Business Person of the Year by the Fauquier Chamber of Commerce, garnering the Be a Shield community-service award from the Salvation Army, and receiving the Best Law Firm in Warrenton title eight years running by popular vote in the Warrenton Lifestyle Magazine.
How does she juggle it all? Washington gives a lot of credit to her legal staff of five, who share her passion for community service.
Last Christmas, and also on one Fourth of July, they did two parades in one day. “They couldn’t get enough,” she says. “We got to dress up and came in first place for our costumes.”
Washington and her staff coordinate their volunteer activities at daily 8 a.m. meetings, at which the team reviews requests for donations and hands-on help. As a group, they decide where to focus their energy.
The flexibility of running her own practice makes it easier for Washington to control her time and carve out opportunities to give back, she says. To make room for volunteering, she spreads her work hours across all seven days of the week.
“I come in on Sundays to get grounded for the week,” she says. “I make sure I haven’t missed anything. I love working in the time when nobody knows I’m in.”
Regular workouts are another secret to her multitasking success. She likes to bike and go hiking to help beat the stress of work and keep up the stamina for her volunteer commitments.
To ensure that they all happen, she relies on a physical calendar for her work and extracurricular activities—even though it drives her staff crazy. She totes her calendar along everywhere, even to court dates.
“I actually schedule my book out two months in advance—where I’m going to volunteer and when I’m going to exercise,” she says. “If it’s not on my calendar, I won’t make the time.”
As a diehard volunteer, Marie Washington is always looking for new ways to give back.
This year, the bulk of her volunteer time will go to assisting with a project for the Wills for Heroes Program. Launched after 9/11, the nonprofit offers free software and support to volunteer attorneys who are helping first-responders—such as firefighters, EMTs and police officers—with estate-planning documents.
Having already served first-responders in Fauquier County, the program is set to expand into adjacent Culpeper County. “I need to find attorneys who can volunteer, notaries, space to work out of, food vendors,” Washington says, ticking off her to-do list. “It’ll be a lot of work—but fun work.”