Hugo R. Valverde of Virginia Beach expressed a sense of near-disbelief as a recipient of the 2008 R. Edwin Burnette Jr. Young Lawyer of the Year Award at the Virginia State Bar Young Lawyers Conference (YLC).
Valverde, a 2005 graduate of Regent University's School of Law, serves as chair of the YLC's Immigrant Outreach Committee. His passion for immigration law stems from personal experience growing up in an immigrant family—representing a community, he said, who cannot speak English and needs advocates who will speak on their behalf.
"My work in immigration law began as a law student at Regent University," Valverde said. "After working for five years dealing with environmental policy and regulations as an environmental planner, I sensed the call to serve the immigrant community as an attorney. Through an evaluation [of talents and passions], I felt that God was telling me that I could do the most good in this world as an immigration attorney. As a law student, I volunteered with a local pro bono attorney with Catholic Refugee and Immigration Services, which at that time had an office in Norfolk, Va."
Upon graduating from Regent, Valverde served as attorney advisor to the Immigration Courts in Oakdale and New Orleans, La., and Memphis, Tenn., through the Department of Justice. After completing this service, he came back to the Virginia Beach area to open a law practice and serve the local immigrant community.
"In my practice, I am committed to taking a certain number of immigration cases pro bono," Valverde explained. "As chair of the YLC's Immigrant Outreach Committee, I work to educate criminal defense attorneys and public defenders on the immigration consequences of criminal convictions to provide immigrants with more effective legal representation."
He also devotes volunteer time to teach immigrants about their legal rights, and he was legal advisor to an Illegal Immigration and Crimes Task Force of the Virginia State Crime Commission. "His involvement, dedication, ingenuity and achievements make him the ideal candidate for this award," wrote Sarah L. Petcher, a former Burnette Award recipient, in a nomination letter.
Valverde received the award on June 20 at the Virginia State Bar Annual Meeting in Virginia Beach.
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