Message from the President
Lisa M. Frisina
It was great seeing so many of you at the Commission’s Annual Meeting in October. Many thanks to everyone who donated to the Kids’ Chance Auction and/or took home an auction item. Special thanks to Claire Carr and all those who helped her organize the event, collect items and set up at the Annual Meeting. As a result, over $10,000.00 will be given to Kids’ Chance for scholarships. Well done!
The emails have recently gone out to our membership with information for the upcoming holiday parties – hoping each of you can attend the events in your region and spend some time with colleagues and friends (and maybe even not talk about work…).
Now that summer is officially over, and the year continues to move ever so quickly toward the end of 2023, I find myself (once again) with just not enough time: not enough time to finish what needs completed in the remaining few weeks of 2023, and certainly not enough time to prepare for 2024. This happens to me every year. Does anyone else feel like this? Overwhelmed by all of the deadlines and responsibilities and promises and obligations – some of which come with our jobs as lawyers and judges, and some of which are self-imposed. Ironically, this is actually my favorite time of year. I look forward to those few days or weeks of crisp cool mornings and beautiful Fall days, followed closely by the anticipation of the holidays and plans for a new year. Yet, there have been years in which I have completely “missed” this season, only to wake up one morning during the first week of January and realize I barely remembered the blur that occurred between Labor Day and New Year’s. I was too busy, I over-promised, I was too tired, I was trying to do it all (for everyone else). Burnout is real: mentally and physically.
So … I promised myself I would take a minute to pause. Daily (which will be difficult). And to breathe. And to find a few moments for myself to enjoy the season (and hopefully actually remember it when that first week in January rolls around : )
As members of the Bar, our roles require us to look out for and take care of others: to make sure our clients’ interests are protected and to obtain the justice to which we believe they are entitled. We work diligently and zealously to do what is best for others, sometimes failing to recognize that we are not taking care of ourselves. Lawyering can be exhausting.
Generally speaking, I don’t think that we (as lawyers) are very good at asking for help. Sometimes, we are not even good at receiving it. But, as lawyers, we need to remember that our physical and mental well-being affects our competence.
I wish for each of you the opportunity in the upcoming weeks to pause, to breathe, to relax, to spend quality time with family and friends, and to enjoy the holiday season. And please take care of yourselves : )
Let us know how you would like to get involved and we will make that happen.
Life, A Spectrum Disorder, or The Mad Musings of an Old Worker’s Compensation Lawyer
Commissioner R. Ferrell Newman
If one were to consider the mind-numbing quantity of pedestrian events that comprise a lifetime, then it is perhaps no surprise that some small percentage are truly remarkable. Sometimes occurrences transpire, alone or in tandem, so contrary to the vagaries of chance; so far into the hinterlands of the human-experience bell curve as to appear the consequence of an invisible hand. Even to the unreligious mind, such events may trigger a disquieting thought –someone is trying to tell me something. At a minimum, someone is having a laugh at my expense. Here is one example of such a seemingly unlikely series of events from my otherwise mind-numbingly pedestrian life.
Before attending law school, I developed a casual friendship with a young man who worked in the middle-school gym which hosted the basketball games of the league in which I played. During time outs and half times, I would abandon my teammates and wander over to the scorer’s table where this fellow and I would chat amiably. I recall little of this beyond the fact that he struck me as a bit odd in a harmless way and he was certainly friendly enough. Having wandered astray of the beaten path of convention myself, I am attracted to such people.
Forty-five years after the fact, I can’t begin to remember the sort of things we discussed. I assume it was just friendly banter, that is, until one night when the conversation took an unexpected dark turn. It was precipitated by his question, whether the name Charles Stamper meant anything to me. Indeed, it did. I knew that Charles Stamper had worked as a cook at the Shoney’s restaurant located at the corner of Staples Mill and Hilliard Roads. In the wee hours of March 25, 1978, he was present with three other employees, the manager who kept the key to the restaurant safe along with the janitor and a waitress. Brandishing a 22-caliber pistol Stamper herded the three into the restaurant cooler and, after securing the key to the safe, shot and killed each. For his efforts, Stamper netted $4,000. The rest is history.
My interest in the Stamper case may have been fueled by the proximity of the Shoney’s restaurant to my childhood home. I recall reading about the discovery of the three bodies and later, about Stamper’s arrest. I knew Stamper was tried and sentenced to die in the electric chair. And so it was that I told my friend that I was familiar with Charles Stamper though I had no idea why he’d ask such a question. He responded, “When he’s executed, I’m going to take the day off from work and get drunk.” So perplexed was I by this comment that his exact words were seared into my memory. So too was his reply when I asked why he would do such a thing. “Because the waitress he murdered was my mother.”
Fifteen years passed before Stamper’s appeals were exhausted and his request to have then Governor Wilder commute his sentence was denied. By that time, I had been out of law school and in private practice for ten years. Shortly before the execution date, I stumbled upon a letter published in the editorial section of the Richmond paper. It was a passioned plea written by the minister employed at the prison where Stamper was housed. He first argued that Stamper’s life should be spared. That was no surprise as I would expect a member of the clergy to oppose the death penalty. However, in his closing lines he called for Stamper’s release from prison. That, I did not see coming.
What is justice? It is hard to imagine a greater gulf of opinion than that held by the child robbed of his mother versus that of the minister who publicly pleads that a convicted murderer be spared his sentence and allowed to walk free. I would not presume to feel the pain of the victim’s son but could understand why his pain was so acute and why he would celebrate the demise of his mother’s murderer. I did not understand why, even a man of faith, could glean out of these horrible circumstances, a basis for Stamper to walk free. It made me angry and I wished for the chance to express my feelings to the minister.
And so I return to my original point about strange coincidences. Before Stamper’s execution, I received a call from a Lutheran minister whom I’d known since before his years in seminary. He asked if I’d be willing to attend a meeting of the prison chaplains. I agreed and was the only lawyer in a room full of the ordained. When we broke for lunch, I found myself sitting at a lunch table next to a quiet fellow. I introduced myself and, long story short, he identified the prison to which he was assigned as chaplain, conceded that Stamper was housed at that facility and reluctantly admitted to being the author of the letter advocating for Stamper’s release.
Our conversation was brief and polite. I told the minister of having read his letter and of having briefly known the son of one of Stamper’s victims. The minister explained that he had been Stamper’s minister for his many years in prison, and that they had grown quite close. Ultimately, he believed that had Stamper committed the crime, he would have confessed. There were no great revelations and the minister seemed uncomfortable speaking to me on the matter. I was suspicious that he had paid a professional price for having written the letter but if so, I never learned of it. Like my association with my basketball friend, my contact with the minister was short and I was never to see him again.
Tis hard to imagine that I have ever been more profoundly in error than with my expectations regarding the practice of law. I graduated law school in 1983 anticipating being warmly received into the welcoming arms of a collegial profession. Such was not to be the case. Granted, I was an easy target for professional ire. I personified the caricature of a young lawyer out of a Norman Rockwell painting. Wearing my one, bargain basement, three-piece suit, I followed around the only lawyer who would hire me (my father) like a lost puppy. I was treated with varying degrees of contempt and dismissiveness by members of the workers’ compensation bar and the prosecutor’s office in the jurisdiction where I accepted court appointed cases. These were not happy days and, lest you think I exaggerate, a couple of examples are in order. I was once surrounded by opposing attorneys who threatened to physically remove me from a deposition. On another occasion, a circuit court judge reminded me that he was not there to teach me how to practice law. A long-term insurance client of my father called a meeting to clarify that I was not authorized to perform work on behalf of his company.
The assaults to my ego mounted and I wanted out of the practice of law. I learned that I was not alone in my experience but unlike some of my more talented classmates who had better options, I was forced to endure. And endure I did. It would have afforded me no comfort to know that forty years hence, I would have a much more charitable view of my early years of practice and of the value of the scars I sustained. By enduring, I learned that the practice of law is less an application of dogmatic rules than it is a path that must be traveled using the available tools of navigation. Through discovery we learn facts. We learn where competing narratives diverge and where they intersect. We employ judgment to discern what is truth and what is falsehood. We learn that sometimes our adversary is the purveyor of falsehood and sometimes the source of the wrong is our own client. We employ strategy, cross our fingers, use sleep aids, seek counseling if necessary and ultimately, we try cases. If the world of workers’ compensation is marked by nothing else, it is where a lawyer gets plenty of courtroom time. Sometimes we prevail and sometimes we do not. I won cases I should win and won cases I should have lost. I lost cases I should have lost and lost cases I should have won. We learn that workers’ compensation is not a perfect system. It is comprised of imperfect laws, litigants, lawyers and, dare I say it, commissioners.
My clock is winding down. At the outside, I have but a very few years left to apply my limited capabilities to the law of workers’ compensation. Some, perhaps many, will celebrate my departure. From the waning end of my professional spectrum, I view the trauma of my early years as a necessary crucible preparing me for the many years to come. I now know that most of my early scars were self-inflicted. It is best to view those mistakes through the lens of lessons learned and not repeated. It is better to view with grace those who I deemed to have wronged me and know they were dealing with their own demons. Some of those same lawyers are still around and I count them as friends.
In an alternative universe, I would have first met, not the son of Stamper’s victim, but the author of the letter to the editor. He would have told me about this gentle soul, Charles Stamper, who was wasting away in prison, wrongly convicted of a horrendous murder. He would have told me that all the evidence introduced against Stamper was circumstantial, which is true. He likely would have characterized Stamper in terms that would have triggered my sympathies and perhaps convinced me of Stamper’s innocence. If I’d met Stamper before the chilling conversation with the son of his victim, I harbor little doubt but that I too would have been charmed and likely convinced of his innocence.
The law of workers’ compensation can be as unforgiving as the law of physics. Strive to do the best you can, and not let your convictions ossify into rectitude. Not all with whom we have conflict are evil nor are all our clients universally virtuous. It will serve you well if, when the opportunity presents, you show a touch of grace. That way, you will minimize the collateral damage, and at the end of your professional spectrum, leave to the world of workers’ compensation an enduring and noble legacy.
Congratulations to Rachel Riordan of KMP Law on her marriage to Jonathan Blum on October 4, 2023 in Bermuda!
Congratulations to Deputy Commissioner Fred Bruner and his beautiful wife Mary, who celebrated 50 years of marriage in August! According to Fred, it took him six years to get Mary to say yes. They started going steady in 1967 and married in 1973. How lucky they are to have found each other!
Congratulations to Deputy Commissioner Lee Wilder on his 30th anniversary at the VWC!
Eva C. Roffis of McCandlish Holton and Brooke Taylor of Reinhardt Harper Davis are members of the Virginia Lawyers Weekly Class of 2023 Up & Coming Lawyers. Congratulations, Eva and Brooke!
We are sad to report that Patricia C. Arrighi died on October 22, 2023. A few remembrances about Pat from the Commissioners and Deputy Commissioners: I feel like I have lost one of my brood…She was very bright…She was a formidable attorney that I greatly respected…She was always straightforward and direct, but respectful at the same time…She was a lot of fun…She was very kind and helpful…She was an excellent and formidable attorney…She always spoke her mind, like it or not, which I found refreshing…She handled a lot of cases with courage….
We welcome the following new IOC members:
Mark T. Hurt
R. Barry Rowell - Klein Rowell & Shall, PLC
Joseph Kurt - Virginia Beach City Attorney's Office
David J. Kapson – ChasenBoscolo
I was born and raised in Cherry Hill, NJ which is about a 20-minute drive from Philadelphia, PA. My father was an accountant and my mother was a small business office administrator. I have an older brother who now lives in Maryland and a younger sister who still lives in New Jersey. After graduating from college, I moved to Virginia in 1986 because my soon-to-be wife had lived in Virginia all of her life and I fell in love with both her and the Commonwealth. We have been fortunate to have lived in multiple locations around Virginia over the last 37 years including Falls Church, Madison, Virginia Beach and Midlothian in Chesterfield County. We have two children (adults now) and we are happily living the empty-nest life.
How many cups of coffee (or tea) do you drink a day?
I typically drink at least 3 cups of fully-caffeinated coffee first thing in the morning. I prefer to do this in silence.
What is the best meal that you can cook?
A bowl of cereal.
Have you ever met or known anyone famous?
“Famous” may not be the correct word, but for the last 40-plus years I have been very close friends with David Stambaugh. David Stambaugh was a child actor in the 1970s and best known for his role as Toby Whitewood in the Bad News Bears movies from the late 1970s.
What is your favorite sports team?
The Philadelphia Eagles.
What was your first job?
My first real job was working at small mom-and-pop type of hardware store in Marlton, NJ. I was taught many useful things and skills while working there such as repairing small 2-cycle and 4-cycle engines, cutting glass and repairing windows and screens, locksmithing, mixing paint, the use of a number of unique tools, etc.
What talent would you like most to have?
Anything artistic or creative.
Where would you most like to travel where you have not yet visited?
Great Britain and Italy.
What do you do in your spare time?
My wife and I enjoy traveling around Virginia to visit wineries, craft breweries and distilleries.
On a scale of 1-10, how good of a driver are you?
If 10 is the absolute best driver I’d say I’m a 9.5.
What’s your favorite day of the week and why?
Any day on which I am not working is my favorite day of the week. I’m look forward to a lot more of those favorite days in the not-too-distant future.
More than Mandatory.
Emily Loughren, Staff Attorney and Mediator
Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission
You may be thinking, “I don’t want to attend an orientation session, much less read an entire article about one.” The reality is, though, if you’re practicing before the Commission, a Deputy Commissioner is probably going to order you to participate in an orientation session at some point. Why? What is the purpose of it? How can it possibly be useful to you and your client? Keep reading.
Rule 1.9 of the Rules of the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission provides that, “At the request of either party, or at the Commission’s discretion, contested claims and applications for hearing will be evaluated and may be referred for informal dispute resolution.” When it appears that a claim may be resolved by informal dispute resolution, the rule allows a Commission representative to schedule the parties for either personal appearance or telephone conference.
However, mediation in Virginia is voluntary, and parties cannot be ordered to mediate a case. Yet parties may be ordered to attend an “orientation session.” Orientation sessions are a tool used not just by the Commission, but also by the courts of the Commonwealth in civil matters. Virginia Code § 8.01-576.5 provides that, “While protecting the right to trial by jury, a court, on its own motion or on motion of one of the parties, may refer any contested civil matter, or selected issues in a civil matter, to an orientation session . . . .”
As part of an orientation session pursuant to Code § 8.01-576.5, the neutral conducting the orientation session “shall provide information regarding dispute resolution options available to the parties, screen for factors that would make the case inappropriate for a dispute resolution proceeding, and assist the parties in determining whether their case is suitable for a dispute resolution process such as mediation.”
As summarized by Virginia’s Standards of Ethics and Professional Responsibility for Certified Mediators, there a two major goals of an orientation session: first, to educate the parties about dispute resolution processes available to them, and second, to assess the case and decide whether to continue with alternative dispute resolution or adjudication.
Considering all this guidance and applying it to my role as a mediator with the Commission, I view the orientation session as an informal discussion with the parties about: (1) the alternative dispute resolution options offered by the Commission, and (2) whether there are possible avenues for resolving the pending claim without proceeding to hearing.
Why would a Deputy Commissioner order you to attend an orientation session? I received answers to this question from some of the Deputy Commissioners. The Deputy Commissioner might review the case and believe the issue is one that could likely be resolved by the parties without a hearing. The case could involve a pro se litigant that may be unfamiliar with alternative dispute resolution options. Or the case could involve represented parties that the Deputy Commissioner thinks should consider mediation. The case file may reflect that the parties simply have not communicated much about the pending claim. Perhaps the claim is so contentious that the parties may not have properly considered resolving the matter through mediation. A matter might also be referred to an orientation session when there are multiple pending issues, and the Deputy Commissioner thinks the parties maybe able to narrow the disputed issues prior to hearing, even if the matter does not completely resolve.
What will this orientation session look like? If the Commission orders you to attend an orientation session, the matter will be scheduled for a half-hour phone call with one of the Commission’s certified mediators. If the orientation session includes an unrepresented party, a client who is unfamiliar with the mediation process, or an attorney new to practicing before the Commission, a good portion of the call may be spent discussing what mediation is, how the process works, and the types of mediation offered by the Commission. The mediator will also answer any questions the parties have about the mediation process.
After the parties are familiar with the Commission’s alternative dispute resolution offerings, the focus of the discussion will turn to whether the particular claim is appropriate for mediation. If both parties are represented by attorneys familiar with mediation, most of the session will likely be spent on this assessment. The mediator conducting the orientation session might ask about each party’s position on a claim, whether they believe there is room for compromise or negotiation, the parties’ willingness to participate in mediation, the type of mediation that would be most appropriate, and whether additional time for investigation or discovery is needed before the parties are ready to mediate.
These discussions are often very fruitful. Sometimes the order to attend the orientation session has prompted the parties to have a discussion on their own, and they have already reached are solution or are close to doing so. Sometimes the orientation session is the first time the parties have spoken to each other about the pending claim outside of e-mail exchanges and formal discovery. Throughout the discussion, the parties might determine, for example, that they can easily resolve the issue on their own without further Commission intervention. The parties might decide they both want to try and reach a compromise resolution of the outstanding issues through issue mediation. The parties might instead determine they would like to attempt a full and final resolution of the claim either on their own or through full and final mediation with a Deputy Commissioner-Mediator.
Sometimes, the mediator or the parties might realize that the parties are unwilling to consider a compromise resolution, that the nature of the issue necessitates a decision by a Deputy Commissioner after a hearing, or that the matter is inappropriate for mediation for some other reason. Even with these outcomes, I still view the orientation session as beneficial. At least the parties leave the session knowing they have explored their options and need to keep preparing for litigation.
If you have spoken to the other party and know there is no possibility of resolving the claim outside of the hearing process, or you have some other reason to object to an orientation session, then you may ask the Deputy Commissioner to relieve you from the order to attend the session. However, I encourage you to give the process a chance before you hastily file such a motion. If attorneys come to the orientation session with an open mind and willingness to discuss the case, an orientation session can truly be an effective tool.
How can you contribute to the orientation session? As Deputy Commissioner Jason Cording explained, “The orientation sessions are often about the process. They need to go in with an open mind and positive attitude for the benefit of their clients. This is routine to them, but is new to their clients. If attorneys have a negative attitude or are dismissive of the process, then their client will carry the same outlook and it may hinder the process.” You can participate in the session by asking questions to the other party and the mediator, explaining why you think the case may or may not be appropriate for mediation, stating what you need to work towards resolution of the case, finding out what you can do to assist the other party in working towards a resolution, and making concessions about anything that can already be agreed upon. Fully participating in the orientation session with a positive attitude leads to more collaboration and ultimately benefits your client by ensuring that all options for resolving a claim have been explored.
As a reminder, you do not have to be ordered to attend an orientation session. You may request one. This can be especially useful where one party is not represented and may not be familiar enough with mediation to agree to it, but you think the case could be resolved through mediation. If you believe it would be helpful, you may also request an orientation session conducted specifically by a Deputy Commissioner-Mediator. Deputy Commissioner Deborah Wood Blevins, Managing Deputy Commissioner of the Alternative Dispute Resolution Department, provided an example: “When there’s a communication problem in identifying and getting notice to beneficiaries in a death case, sometimes the parties have asked for an orientation session with a Deputy Commissioner, or a Deputy Commissioner has ordered one, to put everybody in a safe space to exchange information about how many children there are and where the custodians are.” This is just one of the many ways that orientations sessions have been used at the Commission.
The alternative dispute resolution process is what you make it. So, next time you dial into that conference call line for an orientation session, I encourage you to help make it a useful conversation about your case rather than just a mandatory phone call.
 Va. Workers’ Comp. R. 1.9.
 Frequently Asked Questions About Mediation, Office of the Executive Secretary of the Supreme Court of Virginia,https://www.vacourts.gov/courtadmin/aoc/djs/programs/drs/mediation/faq.html#9
(last visited, Oct. 5, 2023).
 Id.; Va. Code §8.01-576.5.
 Va. Code § 8.01-576.5.
 Standards of Ethics and Professional Responsibility for Certified Mediators § C. cmt. (Office of the Executive Secretary of the Supreme Court of Virginia 2011).
Contingency Plans and Kindness
Deborah Wood Blevins, Deputy Commissioner
Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission
Many of you know that the reason I missed the IOC Advisory Committee Meeting and VWC Educational Conference in Richmond in October was because my daughter was getting married, and I had a lot going on with my family in preparation for it. There are many things you consider in planning a wedding, and we had contingency plans for weather, and travel, and all sorts of calamities. One thing we didn’t anticipate, or plan for, was the bride getting Covid. But that is what happened. Two days before the wedding.
After tears and phone calls and prayers, we postponed it. And the good news is that people were kind. Very kind. The venue, the caterer, the hotel, all worked with us to reschedule it without any financial penalty. What a gift. As a friend of mine said, “you’re a lawyer! You know contracts. They didn’t have to do that!” No, they didn’t. Nothing in the law required kindness. But it was allowed.
Which brings me to the Inn of Court. Nothing requires us to participate, or share our expertise, or offer friendship to others in the workers’ comp world. But it is allowed. Encouraged. Celebrated. And we are all better because of it. Won’t you join us? I promise you that you will be enriched if you do.
TRANSFORMING LEGAL RESEARCH AND WRITING: THE ROLE OF ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE IN PREPARING LEGAL BRIEFS
Commissioner Robert A. Krebs
Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board and HAL 9000
The legal profession is experiencing a transformative wave of innovation driven by artificial intelligence (AI). Among the various applications of AI in law, one stands out for its potential to revolutionize legal research and writing: the preparation of legal briefs. Traditionally, legal research and the drafting of briefs were time-consuming and often required extensive manual labor. However, AI technologies are now empowering legal professionals to enhance their efficiency and accuracy, allowing them to focus more on critical strategic aspects of cases.
AI-Powered Legal Research
Legal research forms the foundation of any well-prepared legal brief. Traditionally, lawyers had to sift through volumes of statutes, case law, regulations, and legal documents to find relevant precedents and arguments. AI platforms like ROSS and LexisNexis are changing the game by offering natural language processing (NLP) capabilities that can quickly locate pertinent information.
These AI systems can analyze vast databases of legal documents, statutes, and case law to identify relevant cases and legal principles. They can provide lawyers with comprehensive and up-to-date information in a matter of seconds, saving significant amounts of research time and ensuring that no critical precedents are overlooked.
Drafting Legal Briefs with AI Assistance
AI's potential extends beyond research; it also offers valuable assistance in the actual drafting of legal briefs. AI-powered tools like Casetext's Compose and LawGeex are designed to help lawyers create well-structured, persuasive, and error-free briefs.
These tools use machine learning algorithms to analyze existing legal documents, identifying patterns in arguments and writing styles. They can suggest relevant legal citations, offer language enhancements, and even detect inconsistencies or errors in the text. This not only speeds up the drafting process but also improves the overall quality of legal briefs.
Tailoring Arguments and Predicting Outcomes
AI can also assist in the strategic aspects of preparing legal briefs. Predictive analytics, a subset of AI, can analyze historical case outcomes and legal arguments to help lawyers make informed decisions about their case strategies. By assessing the probability of success based on past cases, lawyers can better tailor their arguments and anticipate potential challenges.
Moreover, AI can identify relevant legal doctrines and principles that may strengthen a brief's arguments. It can suggest novel legal theories or highlight overlooked issues, helping attorneys build more persuasive cases.
Challenges and Ethical Considerations
While AI's role in preparing legal briefs holds great promise, it is not without challenges and ethical considerations. Ensuring the accuracy and reliability of AI-generated content is paramount. Lawyers must remain vigilant to verify the information and arguments provided by AI tools, especially in high-stakes cases.
Ethical considerations also arise regarding the use of AI in legal practice. Lawyers must maintain their ethical obligations, such as client confidentiality and maintaining competence, when incorporating AI into their workflows. Additionally, transparency and disclosure are crucial when AI assistance is used in legal documents, so judges, opposing counsel, and clients are aware of the technology's involvement.
Artificial intelligence is transforming the legal profession, making legal research, and drafting legal briefs more efficient and accurate. These AI-powered tools are not replacing lawyers but empowering them to work more effectively and strategically. By leveraging AI's capabilities in legal research, drafting, and predictive analytics, legal professionals can deliver higher-quality briefs, save time, and focus on the critical elements of advocating for their clients. However, it is essential for the legal community to approach the adoption of AI with ethical considerations and a commitment to maintaining the highest standards of professionalism and competence. The integration of AI into the legal process is a promising development that is likely to continue shaping the future of law practice.
* * *
If this sounds like it was written by a computer, it was. For those of you who don’t remember, the HAL 9000 was the sentient, artificial general intelligence computer that controlled the spacecraft’s systems in the groundbreaking film, “2001: A Space Odyssey.” (“Heuristically ALgorithmic computer.”) It had been programmed (taught) both information and human mannerisms. HAL eventually turns on the astronauts and tries to take over the ship. Like all of us, I have been hearing a lot about AI and so I visited ChatGPT and asked it to write an article on artificial intelligence and legal briefs. This is what it came up with. (I also asked it to write an article on artificial intelligence and workers’ compensation. Let’s just say it’s not just the lawyers who have something to worry about, the claims administrators’ jobs face being automated by AI too if they haven’t been already.)
This was my first time even looking up an AI program and the process of downloading the program and then generating an article was amazingly easy. It gives you a draft to work from and it is up to the user to edit, revise and fact-check. The above article is what AI generated without any editing from me. I’m still taking baby steps, however, there are law firms who are already well versed in AI generated briefing, to the point of filing such memoranda in court. And in some cases, even being sanctioned for misciting authority where a brief done using ChatGPT cited to non-existent cases. See Judge finds out why brief cited nonexistent cases—ChatGPT did research (abajournal.com).
What to make of this? I’m old enough to remember when law firms first got word-processing and online legal research. Before word-processing it was not unusual to see appellate briefs filed with the court containing handwritten corrections. Before online legal research a law firm’s major overhead expense along with rent was maintaining a law library, now it’s advertising. Like word-processing and online research, AI is a tool and in time it will be widely adopted, refined, and made more user-friendly. There is no going back.
NEWS FROM THE COMMISSION
Did you know…
Vivian R. Lane, Director, Claims Services and Insurance Compliance
Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission
Did you know the Insurance Investigators Team consists of three investigators strategically located in various regions of the state?
Investigator Samuel Faz serves the Northern Virginia Region and is a retired D.C. Capital Police Officer.
Investigator Billy Mitchem serves the Southwest Virginia Region with numerous years of experience within three different law enforcement departments in that area.
Investigator/Team Leader Jonathan Mondrey serves the Central Virginia Region. Jonathan has 10 years of law enforcement experience with the Chesterfield County Police Department.
Recruitment for a fourth Investigator is in progress. The position will likely serve the Coastal Virginia Hampton Roads Region.
The primary role of the Insurance Investigators is to ensure that employers doing business in Virginia operate in compliance with the provisions of Chapter 8 of Title 65.2.
The Investigators monitor employer compliance via access to the Virginia Employment Commission (VEC) and State Corporation Commission (SCC) data as well as from whistleblower complaints filed with our own Virginia Employer Non-Compliance Alerts (VENCA) website. Possible non-compliance infractions are researched and resolved by telephone and/or the employer is added to a list of site visits conducted during monthly sweeps.
A sweep can be defined a s a monthly or bi-monthly four-to-five-day review of employers that may need workers’ compensation insurance coverage. After an in-depth vetting process, each Investigator comprises a list of 12 or more employer site locations to visit each day of the weeklong sweep. The employer locations can be the location of the business or the actual residence of the business owner. The employer locations are usually determined by information submitted to the VEC and/or SCC.
In 2019, the Investigators were sworn in under Virginia Code § 65.2-203, which grants “… in all matters within the jurisdiction of the Commission, have the powers, discharge the functions, and perform the duties of a sheriff under the law. They shall preserve order during the public sessions of the Commission; may make arrests and serve and make return on any writ or process awarded by the Commission; and shall execute any writ, order, or process of execution awarded upon the findings or judgments of the Commission in any matter within its jurisdiction. They shall exercise other powers and perform any duties as may be delegated to them.” The Investigators can be called to swear out warrants against employers found in violation of Virginia Code § 65.2-804 and often testify in judicial proceedings on matters pertaining to such violations.
Lastly, the Investigators have recently begun conducting employer surveillance for our Uninsured Employer’s Fund (UEF) attorney partners. This has proven to be a successful partnership solidifying VWC’s statutory responsibility and commitment to effectively administer the Uninsured Employer’s Fund.
The new PMT Claim Form should be webfiled or categorized as a Request for Hearing. The response form should be webfiled as a Letter from Attorney. Because this is not yet an automated process, VWC does not have other options available to allow the Commission’s CMD department to categorize these forms nor are they available in webfile. Once VWC gets this process automated, there will be options available specifically for PMT.
INN HAPPENINGS AND OTHER EVENTS
Please note the dates/venues, mark your calendar, and RSVP to Linda Willis.
Bristol – Sponsored by TrustRx
December 13, 2023, Noon – 2pm
Bristol Hotel, 115 Country Music Way, Bristol, VA 24201
RSVP by November 27th
The Program Committee is requesting that each member bring an item for Washington County Animal Shelter – Abingdon. Following are some examples of items needed: pet toys, pet blankets, dry and wet dog and cat food.
The items that are brought to the holiday party will be delivered by Mingkwan Collins.
Northern Virginia - Sponsored by TrustRx
December 7, 2023, 6-8:30pm
Matchbox, 2911 District Avenue, Fairfax, VA 22031
RSVP by November 20th
The Program Committee is requesting that each member bring an item for Save The Tails. Examples of items needed: Bully sticks (any size), Bravo tracheas, Duck feet, Steer sticks, Turkey/beef tendons, training treats, fleece remnants for inside the transport crates.
The items brought to the holiday party will be delivered to the organization by Lynn Fitzpatrick.
Richmond - Sponsored by Alliance PT
December 5, 2023, 6-8:30pm
Lunch/Supper, 1213-1215 Summit Avenue, Richmond, VA 23230
RSVP by November 20th
The Program Committee is requesting that each member bring an item for the Children’s Hospital of Richmond. Following are some examples of items needed:
Paint by Sticker
Craft kits for ages 4 – 8
Puzzles for ages 12 & up
For a complete listing use the following link: https://www.amazon.com/hz/wishlist/ls/3NJGQZU0KZBG7?ref_=wl_share
The items that are brought to the holiday party will be delivered to the Children’s Hospital by DC Hunter.
Roanoke - Sponsored by TrustRx
December 12, 223, 6 – 8:30pm
The Stone House at Black Dog Savage, 914 13th Street, Roanoke, VA 24016
RSVP by November 27th
The Program Committee is requesting that each member bring an item for Kids Soar – helping underprivileged Roanoke City 1 -3 graders. Items needed: Books for 1 – 3 graders.
The items that are brought to the holiday party will be delivered to Kids Soar by Brenda Moses.
Tidewater - Sponsored by IWP
December 6, 2023, 6-8 pm
Steinhilber’s Restaurant, 653 Thalia Rd., Virginia Beach, VA 23452
RSVP by November 20th
The Program Committee is requesting that each member bring an item for http://www.forkids.org/. Following are some example of items needed:
Infants & Toddlers – Mega blocks, Baby Einstein, Counting or stacking toys, vetch and leapfrog.
Ages 5-8 – arts & craft kits, hot wheels sets, board games, kitchen play sets
Ages 5 – 12 – multicultural dolls, lego sets, musical instruments, Star Wars
Teens 13-18 – art supplies & craft kits, manicure & makeup sets, Bluetooth speakers, earbuds
A complete listing is on the ForKids website.
The items that are brought to the holiday party will be delivered by Charlene Morring.
Winchester – Sponsored by TrustRx
December 14, 2023, 6-8 pm
Dark Horse Irish Pub, 659 Zachary Taylor Hywy, Flint Hill, VA 22627
RSVP by November 27th
The Program Committee is requesting that each member bring an item for the Rappahannock County Food pantry – the only food bank in Rappahannock County. Please bring non perishable food items (Large #10 cans of food are especially appreciated) or a donation payable to the Rappahannock County Food pantry.
The items that are brought to the holiday party will be delivered by David Griffin.
VWC’s Community Services Committee raised $800 for Kids’ Chance in October 2023 through generous donations from Commission team members. This donation to Kids’ Chance was made in honor of the late Commissioner Roger L. Williams. Thank you, VWC!
The silent auction and raffle at the VWC Educational Conference raised over $10,000 for Kids’ Chance. Many thanks to Claire Carr and Jennifer Cappocelli for everything they did—and they did a lot—to make the auction happen, to all the law firms and vendors who donated items to auction, to Charles Steepleton at the VWC and Kevin Reap at Berkley for their invaluable help, and to all of you who bid on items.
These generous donations help support the mission of Kids' Chance of Virginia, which provides post-secondary and trade school scholarships to the children of Virginia workers who have been severely or fatally injured in a workplace accident.
July 2023-Norfolk Tides
August 2023 - Washington Nationals
September 2023 – Comradery and CLE credits – Roanoke, Virginia
October 2023 - VWC Educational Conference