Personality: Brent Timberlake

Spotlight on Greater Richmond Bar Foundation board president

3/7/2024, 6 p.m.
The three words that Brent Timberlake used to describe himself — curious, hopeful and hard-working — play a role in …

The three words that Brent Timberlake used to describe himself — curious, hopeful and hard-working — play a role in many aspects of his life.

For example, the married father of four teenagers pursued a career in law. Mr. Timberlake earned his law degree from the University of Richmond and currently serves as chief counsel for Capital One Retail Bank.

It was one of his law school professors who gave him a way of looking at things that aligned with his natural curiosity. The Virginia native said he has taken things apart and put them back together since he was a child. He said it helped him to learn how and why things worked.

Legal cases could be the same, he believed. Diving in to understand why decisions were made helped him to see how the principles could be applied to other cases as well.

“Understanding the ‘why’ really is a key,” Mr. Timberlake, 45, said. “[It] unlocks insight into the future that helps me be a better lawyer and person.”

It also helps him to see how he can make positive change that improves the lives of others.

Mr. Timberlake credits his grandmother for setting an example of making a difference where she could.

“She was a local politician in the Northern Neck and she really cared about helping people,” he said. “Her commitment to speaking up, leaning in, doing the hard work, and getting to the right solution, is something that has inspired me my whole life.”

One way that Mr. Timberlake has followed his grandmother’s lead is by volunteering with the Greater Richmond Bar Foundation.

While GRBF initially was founded in 1978 to commission judicial portraits, the nonprofit has evolved since the early 2000s. Its mission now is to help facilitate free legal services for nonprofit organizations and individuals by connecting lawyers with pro bono opportunities.

“Many people may not realize that you only have a right to a lawyer in criminal cases where a jail sentence may be imposed,” Mr. Timberlake said. “[But] being evicted from your home, losing custody of a child, being deported, or even being unable to get a divorce even where both parties agree — all have significant and often devastating consequences to the people who aren’t able to get legal support to help them with their issue.”

As a young lawyer, Mr. Timberlake volunteered his services through GRBF. He has become even more involved since 2011 as part of a Capital One team that works with the group to address tech challenges. An example is the development of a case-management system — Justice Server. The system connects lawyer volunteers with referrals from legal aid organizations for pro bono services.

In July last year, Mr. Timberlake became president of the GRBF Board of Directors in addition to his volunteer work.

Over his years of service, he has seen legal hurdles get resolved that seemed insurmountable at the start. Many times, the help provided by volunteer lawyers is life-changing.

“That’s the thing about acts of kindness,” Mr. Timberlake said. “Even a small one creates a cascading impact that lasts far beyond the moment it happens.”

Meet Brent Timberlake, someone who uses his curiosity and legal skills to improve the lives of others, and this week’s Personality:

Volunteer position: President, Greater Richmond Bar Foundation Board of Directors.

Occupation: Chief counsel, Capital One Retail Bank.

Month and place of birth: March in Kilmarnock.

Where I live now: I live in Midlothian with my wife, four children, and Tate, the world’s best rescue dog.

Education: Bachelor’s in political science, Virginia Tech; J.D., University of Richmond.

Greater Richmond Bar Foundation (GRBF) is: A nonprofit whose mission is to expand access to justice by mobilizing, training, and connecting attorneys to pro bono clients.

In short, we help attorneys do pro bono. In Central Virginia, GRBF works with legal aid organizations, local government agencies and community organizations to assess needs for pro bono services and then connect lawyers to these opportunities to serve.

When and why founded: GRBF was founded in 1978 to serve as a nonprofit to commission judicial portraits. Starting in the early 2000s, GRBF evolved to become a clearinghouse to facilitate free legal services to nonprofit organizations and individuals and to encourage participation in pro bono service work.

When elected board president: July 2023.

Why GRBF is meaningful to me: From a small foundation formed to commission judicial portraits, it evolved to create a clearinghouse to help nonprofits in the area get (necessary) legal support to help them support our communities. It continued to evolve to support Firms in Service — Richmond, a unique organization of law firms and corporate legal departments of all sizes that come together to support pro bono programs in our area. It also stepped up to create the Triage Project, which directly supports legal aid by partnering with volunteer attorneys in areas of particularly acute need. GRBF became the conduit to facilitate the rollout of JusticeServer, now utilized throughout the United States, to solve the case-management and volunteer-solicitation issues experienced by legal aid organizations. And more recently, when Richmond was featured as one of the worst cities in the nation for evictions, GRBF partnered with the City of Richmond to create and support the Eviction Diversion Program — a program designed to help tenants in need avoid being evicted from their homes. All of this to say, GRBF is a fixer. It doesn’t let its structure, the complexity or magnitude of a problem or the lack of an existing answer to the case stand in the way of solving the problem. It facilitates bring ing the right groups to the right needs at the right time.

No. 1 goal and strategy as board president: Sustainability and working to ensure GRBF’s programs and services remain available to our partners and those who need our support in Central Virginia for many years to come.

Biggest challenge: As with any nonprofit whose existence depends on grants and donations, ensuring that we have the funding to continue to innovate and support our community is always the biggest challenge.

No. 1 joy I have witnessed through working with GRBF: Seeing the impact and appreciation from helping clients in need is, by far, the biggest joy. In so many instances, what seems like an insurmountable legal obstacle to someone who is unfamiliar with the legal system and lacks the resources to get assistance, is a relatively easy thing to address.

Upcoming event and details: It’s hard to believe that this year, we’ll hold the 10th Annual Jazz4Justice Concert! It’s a great event that highlights the justice gap, while showcasing incredible performances by VCUarts Jazz Studies students. This year, we’re thrilled to welcome two-time, Grammy-nominated vocalist, songwriter and activist René Marie with the VCU Jazz Orchestra and the Jazz4Justice Scholarship Sextet. The concert will be held 7:30 p.m., Thursday, March 14, 2024, at the Sonia Vlahcevic Concert Hall in the VCU Singleton Center.

Proceeds benefit the Greater Richmond Bar Foundation’s nonprofit mission to expand access to justice and fund scholarships for VCUarts Jazz Studies students.

How I start the day: I wake up every day at 4:30 a.m. Being awake before the sun comes up gives me a sense of peace and perspective, and a few minutes for quiet reflection. I like to revisit issues from the day before with a fresh lens and take a few minutes to prepare for the day ahead.

Best late-night snack: Without question, the best late-night snack is a PB&J. But the older I get, the more I find myself reaching for choices with (fewer) consequences – Honeycrisp apples are my favorite.

My music playlist: We’re definitely big on music in my house, we have speakers everywhere, and we’re always making playlists or digging up old songs. There’s not enough space here to list everything I love. My daily rotation includes everything from country to oldies to rap. There’s nothing better than singing in the car!

I love to: Build and restore things. During COVID, I tiled a bathroom, built bookshelves and a desk, got into craft cocktails and restored two old BMW motorcycles.

A quote that inspires me: “Things are only impossible until they’re not.” – Captain Picard, “Star Trek: The Next Generation”

The best thing my parents ever taught me: I would answer this by talking about my grandmother. She was fiery but gentle, outspoken but respectful, principled but compromising.

The book that influenced me the most: Like most lawyers, I think “To Kill A Mockingbird” had a huge impression on me when I was a kid – most of all, that theme of understanding what things look like from someone else’s point of view.

Next goal: To welcome whatever comes next and to make the most of it!