December 17, 2018
Faces of Fauquier: Native found her calling in law
“I’ve always loved Fauquier and knew I would come back to practice,” Marie Washington says. “I’m not a city person.”
Usually when people come to me, it’s a traumatic part of their life and they don’t always want to remember that time . . . . It’s very rewarding to help people.
A passion for helping others radiates through her infectious laugh, volunteerism and work as a lawyer in Warrenton.
Energetic and competitive, Marie Washington enjoys “giving closure to clients” and explaining the legal process simply.
“I really want to help as many people as I can and get rid of the stereotype that lawyers are stuffy old men . . . . We’re down to earth; we’re human,” Ms. Washington said.
A Liberty High School basketball star, who scored 1,269 career points in the mid-1990s, Ms. Washington might have seemed an unlikely lawyer.
But, watching “Matlock” regularly with her grandfather and earning a minor in government at the College of William and Mary helped the Fauquier native realize her calling.
“Seeing how the attorney (on the show) really helped people, and everyone in the community knew him — that’s when I thought, ‘I want to be a lawyer’,” Ms. Washington said.
After earning her bachelor’s and law degrees, Ms. Washington returned to her home county in 2003.
“I’ve always loved Fauquier and knew I would come back to practice,” she said. “I’m not a city person.”
Warrenton lawyer “Mark Williams let me shadow him when I was in law school. I got to watch him go to court,” she said. “Back in the day, I went to all the attorneys in the phone book, and only two attorneys called me back to shadow them. One of them was Mark Williams.”
He later hired the rookie lawyer.
“He was nice enough to give me the opportunity to be an entry-level attorney,” she said. “I hadn’t even passed the bar yet and he took me on as a member of his team.”
Ms. Washington started her own general practice firm in 2011.
“I’ve always wanted to have my own business, my own hours, be able to do more community service,” she said.
Ms. Washington believes her “down-to-earth” character and focus on community service set her apart.
“Since I’m from here, I love Warrenton.”
Last week, she counted 63 active cases in Fauquier and eight nearby jurisdictions.
“Usually when people come to me, it’s a traumatic part of their life and they don’t always want to remember that time . . . . It’s very rewarding to help people and give back to the community.”
Ms. Washington goes to court three to four days a week and often talks with clients on weekends.
“I like the good old Andy Griffith of Mayberry, where anyone can just walk off the street and have a question about something,” she said. “It could be business, traffic, estate planning. I like to do a variety of things. It keeps me on my toes and helps you not forget that one area of law.”
Occasionally, Ms. Washington will invite a released inmate to have a cup of coffee in her office across West Lee Street from the Fauquier jail.
She recruits local high school and community college students for internships.
But, a solo practice comes with challenges.
“You really have to stay within a budget, and you don’t have time for a sick day,” Ms. Washington said. “At a big firm, you can send one of your associate members to go to court for you. But with me, it’s just me.
“That’s why it’s nice to practice in Warrenton, because everybody knows everybody and you could call somebody the morning to cover court for you,” she said. “I’ve never done that, but it’s nice to know people will step up to the plate for you.”
Volunteering with several local organizations over the years, Ms. Washington also has served as a bell ringer in the Salvation Army Red Kettle campaign since high school.
“I feel like you have to (volunteer). It’s my upbringing. When I was little, my mom would never walk by a kettle and not put something in it.”
On the job, she derives particular satisfaction from “getting people’s restoration of rights, because everyone messes up in life,” Ms. Washington said.
“It’s a learning experience, even for lawyers. That’s why they call it the practice of law. It’s nice to see people who . . . are so honored to get their rights back, especially because it can be a long process sometimes.”
Along the way, several local lawyers have helped Ms. Washington, allowing her to use office space and giving her filing cabinets.
“Practicing in Warrenton, the lawyers are really good to each other. I just don’t think people would get that in another jurisdiction.”
The Fauquier Chamber of Commerce recently named her its Business Person of the Year and county Supervisor Chris Granger selected her as Center District’s Citizen of the Year.
Away from work, she frequently walks Cody, her 9-year-old Great Pyrenees, around Warrenton.
Owner and lawyer, Law Office of Marie Washington, 2011 to present; Mark B. Williams & Associates, 2003-11.
• Why do you do the job?
I really want to help as many people as I can and get rid of the stereotype that lawyers are stuffy old men. We’re down to earth, we’re human and to be able to explain the legal process . . . . Simplify things for people.
I like giving closure to the clients. Because sometimes the legal process can be very long. I like to make them feel comfortable before they go to court.
It’s seven days a week . . . . People will call me on weekends and ask questions.
Parents, Willie and Katherine Washington; sister, Angel; Great Pyrenees dog, Cody.
Law degree, Washington and Lee University, 2003; bachelor’s degree, major in psychology and minor in government, College of William and Mary, 2000; Liberty High School, 1996.
• Civic and/or church involvement
Member of Our Saviour Lutheran Church and Mount Zion Baptist, both in Warrenton, Fauquier Chamber of Commerce, Fauquier Bar Association and Culpeper Bar Association; volunteer at Fauquier Hospital, Experience Old Town Warrenton and the Fauquier Salvation Army.
• How long have you lived in Fauquier?
My whole life.
• Why do you live here?
I’m from here. I wanted to come back. I love Fauquier County.
• How do you describe this county?
The county has really grown. But it’s not like Fairfax, so it’s still nice. Here it’s competitive but not cutthroat. People really want everybody to succeed. If we as attorneys can’t do something, we will refer it to another attorney.
• What would you change about Fauquier?
The parking — add more of it. People will call and get stressed about where to park and ask if it’s two-hour parking, and they have to be in court for three hours. The parking is an issue. I want people to shop on Main Street and not have to worry about where to park.
• What do you do for fun?
I like to go to the gym. I like my Peloton (workout bike). Walk my dog. I do road cycling.
• What’s your favorite place in Fauquier?
I like Rady Park. You meet some nice people there. I also like Claire’s at the Depot restaurant.
• What will Fauquier be like in 10 years?
It’s still going to have that small town feel and have that sophisticated elegance. I think people are still going to walk down the street and say hello to each other. But I think we will be more advanced with our parking and have more trails.
• Favorite TV show?
I really don’t watch TV. If I had to watch something it would be “The Big Bang Theory.”
• Favorite movie?
• Favorite book?
• Favorite vacation spot?
I like to travel. For the Virginia Bar Association, we go a different country each year to get continued legal education. I just went to Portugal. The people are really nice. It’s nice to learn about different legal aspects in different countries.
• Favorite food?
Indian cuisine. Taj Palace in Warrenton.
• What is the best advice you have ever received? From whom?
Probably from my mom. She would say, don’t let anyone kill your spirit. Everyone has different viewpoints, but you just have to be yourself.
• Who’s your hero and why?
That’s easy for me. That would be my mom. She’s my best friend. She has been there for me through thick and thin from me stressing through law school finals. During that time, she would send me things . . . and she would drive to Manassas to get me these Vietnamese spring rolls and drive them all the way to Lexington.
She always has a quote from the Bible she gives me. She always tells me to pray to God that I can say the right things in court to help my client.
• What would you do if you won $5 million in the lottery?
I would be giving Warrenton money to help with parking. I would be like MC Hammer and give all the money away and then be bankrupt. My love sign is giving people things. It’s hard for me to receive.
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Tony Bentley · December 18, 2018 at 9:05 am
Working with Ms. Washington to prepare our wills was a great pleasure. Her office is professional and response is quick.
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