Jimmy F. Robinson grew up dirt poor in a racist, segregated Alabama city. When he started law school, his goal was to become a prosecutor and a community activist who advocated for change.
"That didn't pay the bills," he says. So he rose through the profession to become a labor and employment litigator at one of Richmond's leading law firms, Troutman Sanders.
But his community activism side never went away. One of three black partners at the firm, Robinson remains dedicated to giving back to the community that reared him. "It's humbling," he says. "Because I was one of those kids who had no clue this was possible. ... I can't just sit comfortably. You have to reach back — you have to prepare others to achieve that accomplishment."
He's a regular face at the Oliver Hill-Samuel Tucker Pre-Law Institute, a summer program that introduces the legal profession to minority students across Virginia. Through the state bar association he's also worked to help low-income seniors who are faced with complex questions that arise with end-of-life and estate-planning issues. He's done it in part by writing law guides for seniors and by holding law days for seniors at small churches around the state.
On top of all that, Robinson, his wife, Monica Manns (another 2012 Top 40 Under 40 recipient), and their two children spend at least one night a week volunteering in the community at homeless missions.
From Robinson's perspective, service isn't optional: "It's got to be done, so if I miss 45 minutes of sleep, so be it."