By Shawn Nowlin
Last month, the Salem/Roanoke County Bar Association welcomed local attorney Rachel Thompson as the organization’s newest President. In her new role that will last one full calendar year, Thompson will spearhead the institution and its members by planning luncheons to build camaraderie in addition to bringing back holiday gatherings, among other things. Rachel’s husband, Brad, served as President of the Bar Association a few years ago.
Thompson’s predecessor is Mary Nash, someone she credits for establishing a standard of excellence. “She really did quite an awesome job of pivoting in the middle of a pandemic,” Thompson said. “Mary led the charge and provided great meetings and substance despite the physical distance.”
The middle of three girls, Thompson was born to a Jamaican father and a South African mother in West Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Both of her parents came to the United States as immigrants and demonstrated that with hard work, a plan, humility and grace, anything can be achieved. “My mom came to the US at age 24 with one suitcase and without knowing one person,” said Thompson. “She overachieved. What an example.”
So much has transpired in Thompson’s life over the last decade. In 2011, she met her mentor Christine Poarch through a member of the same Bar Association that she now oversees. During her third year at the Liberty University School of Law in 2012, she interned for Poarch. That summer, after Thompson got married, she joined the firm. Eight years later, Poarch Law officially became Poarch Thompson Law when Rachel was named partner. “I have been here for some years now and cannot imagine being anywhere else,” she said.
Reflecting on her law school experience, Thompson said, “Liberty Law has the best professors. The education was fantastic and what I learned outside the classroom is just as important as what I learned inside the classroom. The professors were not just wrapped up in our final grades; they invested time and energy molding students into the people we are today.” In 2018, she returned to her alma mater to serve as an adjunct professor.
Practicing law for nearly a decade has afforded Thompson numerous memories that she will forever cherish. They include winning a case for a particular client after long hard-fought battle when there was only a glimmer of hope. “Seeing that hope realized brings me back to work each day and helps me be creative and fight hard for each individual person,” she said.
Thompson is the first to say that without the support of her family, she would not enjoy the career that she does today. “My husband does not get enough credit. He is joyfully in the background doing laundry, dishes, picking up the kids, running errands, cleaning the house, all without complaining. I’m only able to do what I do because of him. He is teaching our boys what it means to support their wives all while having a demanding job of his own. We just welcomed a baby girl named Hope into the world.”