Offit Kurman Hosts Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring in Tysons Corner
Last week, Offit Kurman hosted Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring at the firm’s location in Tysons Corner. Over the course of an hour, Mr. Herring spoke to Offit Kurman about his position as Attorney General, the changes in state and federal law he foresees as the new Presidential administration takes office, and several of the critical legal issues facing Virginians today. Topics included counter-terrorism, human trafficking, substance abuse, and relations between law enforcement and the communities it serves.
Mr. Herring, a former Virginia State Senator, was invited to speak with Offit Kurman’s attorneys and staff by Steven David Stone, a principal-level litigator with the firm. Mr. Stone’s first legal job was with the state Attorney General’s office, and he has additionally served as outside counsel for numerous Virginia Attorneys General in litigation and transportation matters.
With extensive experience in both law and politics, Mr. Herring imparted wisdom about the roles all attorneys play in effecting large-scale change, connecting his current status as Attorney General with his career in a private practice.
“We can be an advocate, depending upon what the issue is and how it affects people,” he told Offit Kurman. “It’s also possible that there are solutions that we can come up with that don’t require legislation. As lawyers, we’re all problem solvers. Back when I was in private practice, that’s how I viewed the work I did: to make an assessment of where the client was, at Point A; where the client wanted to be—Point B; and figure out a path to get there.”
One of these problems in need of solving, said Mr. Herring, is cybersecurity. Speaking to Offit Kurman’s lawyers, several of whom provide cybersecurity services to clients, Mr. Herring said that the threat of cyberattacks is continuing to rise, but that attorneys can help by informing the businesses they work with about available resources and best practices.
Additionally, he told Offit Kurman, the internet is being used more and more to commit—and defend against—acts of child predation and human trafficking.
“People would be shocked to know how prevalent that is,” he said. “The good news is technology is really transforming how we’re able to not only identify perpetrators but also identify victims.”
Another area where Virginia is making progress, said Mr. Herring, is in addressing opioid abuse. Through an initiative that combines Good Samaritan laws with greater access to the opioid-counteracting drug naloxone, the state has effectively lowered overdose rates in a crisis that has grown to national proportions. Mr. Herring was quick to point out that the outcome was achieved through bipartisan support, even in a politically divided climate:
“There’s an impression is that everything is partisan, nothing can get done, and that we’re hopelessly gridlocked, but our work on the opioid crisis has achieved bipartisan support. We worked cooperatively with members of both parties and came together. We were able to bring the law enforcement community together with advocates. The crisis is getting bipartisan support and help, and I think that will continue.”
Speaking further on the topic of community–police relations, he added:
“In Virginia, we have some of the best law enforcement in the country, but part of being the best is committing yourself to constant self-evaluation and improvement. I’ve heard from enough people and enough leaders to know that there have been differences in how minority communities have been policed. There are different outcomes in the criminal justice system. It’s important to not just try to make sure that the level of trust doesn’t erode so much that it leads to violence, but rather go beyond that to try to truly achieve the ideals I think we all believe in, in terms of equal treatment. We can all agree on a couple of objectives. Number one: we want to make sure that law enforcement has the skills and the tools they need to keep the community safe. And, number two, everybody should be treated equally and fairly.”
To these ends, Mr. Herring spoke about the plans the Attorney General’s office has established to train officers in de-escalation and recognizing implicit bias, as well as law enforcement diversity and outreach initiatives. He related these initiatives to the efforts undertaken by the state to reduce sexual violence on Virginia college campuses.
Mr. Herring, who is up for reelection in 2017, concluded his luncheon with Offit Kurman by reaffirming his commitment to the people of Virginia and commenting that serving as Attorney General has been a “real privilege.”
As he told Offit Kurman:
“This is by far the best job I’ve ever had, and the reason is because of the positive effects it has on people’s lives. I love practicing law, I love public policy, and most of all, I love helping people. When you’re the attorney general, you get to do all three of those things every single minute you’re awake.”
All of us at Offit Kurman would like to once again thank the Attorney General for his time and for sharing his insights with our Tysons Corner team. For more information about Mr. Herring and the Office of the Virginia Attorney General, click here. To learn more about Offit Kurman’s legal group in Tysons Corner, please click here.
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