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Retiring lawyer donates $100K
Retiring legal aid director gives retirement gift of $100,000 to the agency

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Date published: 12/21/2010


Some of his clients lived in tents, or under bridges. Others endured abuse or faced eviction.

Through 31 years at Rappahannock Legal Services in Fredericksburg, Bill Botts grew close to hundreds of clients.

"I go home every night, I have a wonderful wife, a home-cooked meal, a hot shower and a warm bed," Botts said. "When you work with clients like I do, you can't help but want to do everything you can."

For three decades, he gave that through long hours of work and cutting his own pay when the agency faced budget cuts. The nonprofit corporation that provides free civil legal assistance to low-income individuals and families receives funding from federal, state and local sources as well as donations.

As Botts heads toward retirement as director of the regional legal aid office, he is giving something more: $100,000.

He started setting money aside for retirement in 1975, while working at a legal aid office in Pennsylvania. Botts kept the habit, and said that giving so much money to Rappahannock Legal Services "just seems natural."

Botts has directed the local legal aid office since 1984. The agency often faced economic struggles over the years, and the recession has hit the nonprofit hard. Its caseload has increased 53 percent while its income has decreased 20 percent.

In February, Rappahannock Legal Services laid off an attorney. The agency began furloughs and a pay freeze, and moved to less expensive offices.

But the clients keep coming even when the money doesn't. Without Botts' donation, the agency would have to lose two more attorneys. In the past year, six lawyers have handled 3,464 cases.

Botts hopes his donation will be a starting point, and that the community will match his donations so the agency can continue without cuts into two more budget years.

He will work until March 15 while the agency's board looks for a replacement. After that, Botts plans to volunteer two days a week doing pro bono cases.

"I don't want to just walk out the door with accolades," he said. "Retirement shouldn't be backward-looking, it should be forward-looking."

Amy Flowers Umble: 540/735-1973
Email: aumble@freelancestar.com

To donate to Rappahannock Legal Services, send checks to 618 Kenmore Ave., Suite 1-A, Fredericksburg, Va. 22401. Write "matching campaign" on the memo line. For details, call 540/371-1115.