Twenty years ago, I graduated from law school. Fifteen years ago, after practicing law in Kentucky for five years, I passed the North Carolina bar exam, quit my job and moved to Charlotte to be with my husband, a fellow Mecklenburg County Bar (MCB) member. Chris and I were married at the Mecklenburg County Courthouse in 2003. Ten years ago, I decided to get involved in the MCB. In response to the annual call to join MCB sections, committees and divisions, I joined the MCB’s Continuing Legal Education Committee. I knew I had a lot to learn and wanted to make new friends, so the CLE Committee seemed like a great fit.
And it was. I still remember my first CLE committee meeting, back in 2007. I remember how nervous I was, walking up to the building on Queens Road for the first time, knowing that I would not know anyone. I needn’t have worried. Lisa Armanini (our longtime CLE Director), Maria Minsker (who chaired the CLE committee that year) and the committee members made me feel welcome. I enjoyed the year so much that I co-chaired the CLE committee with John Reis from 2008-2010. John is one of many friends that I have made through my MCB volunteer work. In the 10 years since I first joined the CLE committee, I’ve planned or spoken at more than 30 MCB CLE programs. I have gotten to know and respect so many of you because of your contributions to those programs.
We are so proud of our CLE programs that for the first time, we offered a tuition-free hour of CLE ethics credit to MCB members, in conjunction with our Annual Meeting on May 18. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge, and fellow MCB member, Albert Diaz gave an hour-long presentation on ethics and professionalism lessons learned from Abraham Lincoln’s 25-year legal career. We will continue to offer Judge Diaz’s “What Would Lincoln Do?” CLE tuition-free to our members until the May 2018 Annual Meeting. Check the CLE page on the MCB website, and the CLE insert in these monthly newsletters, for details about the program’s availability via video replay and online. We are grateful to Judge Diaz for this memorable contribution to the Annual Meeting. If the hour of tuition-free CLE credit is a member benefit that you like, please let us hear from you.
The MCB gives us a unique framework for opportunities to connect with each other, the profession and our community. These opportunities include high-quality CLEs on local issues; Bar Memorials honoring recently deceased MCB members; and our direct case placement pro bono program, which complements the Access to Justice Pro Bono Program of Legal Services of Southern Piedmont and Legal Aid of North Carolina to meet the overwhelming needs of low-income Mecklenburg County residents. Opportunities to connect are as important as ever. As many as 40 percent of you are solo practitioners. Many of you struggle to pay student loan debt. We are all familiar with the struggles of the Charlotte School of Law and the resulting effect on students, alumni and faculty. Last September, as our community made national news, we were reminded of the significant income and opportunity gaps that exist for too many in Mecklenburg County.
What do we need from you? Your participation. If you’re reading this, there is a good chance you're already involved in either the Bar or the Mecklenburg Bar Foundation. Keep it up; our committees, sections and divisions do the real work of the Bar and the Foundation. My “big ask” of you this fiscal year is to invite a MCB member to join you at a Bar or Foundation event. Look for someone who, like me 10 years ago, was not plugged in to the MCB, and would benefit from the friendship, leadership, opportunities and encouragement that our members provide each other, as you and I have benefitted. You might make all the difference in the world.