I am who I am, largely because of my parents. While I admire the work and wisdom of notable, public figures, I didn’t have to look outside my own home for heroes and role models. My parents were both educators, first in segregated schools, then later finding a place and forging a path in the integrated school system in Danville, VA. My mom, a high school language arts teacher and chairman of the English department, retired after 37 years in the public school system. She later was elected to city council and became mayor of Danville. My father, first a teacher and later an assistant principal, retired after 40 years in the public schools. They both toiled, not in the vineyard, but in the schoolyard - planting, cultivating and harvesting young minds because they believed, as I now do, that children who know better, do better. Exposure to different people, places, activities and ideas is the key that unlocks the world of possibilities. They believed, as I now do, that you should find something you’re good at, something you enjoy and use it to improve the world around you.
So starting at a young age, my parents enrolled me in all sorts of activities. They expected good grades, of course; but they also encouraged me to be creative, to travel, to explore my interests (within limits!) and to test my abilities. They used to ask, “How can you say you don’t like something or you’re not good at something if you’ve never tried it?” My dad was particularly fond of the 1970s TV commercial featuring Mikey and the advertisement of Life® cereal - “Try it,” he used to say. “You might like it!”
Those early lessons my parents taught me have guided my career choices and, moreover, my engagement with the Mecklenburg County Bar. Within a few years of graduating law school, most lawyers develop a practice area of expertise - criminal, family law, real estate, personal injury, intellectual property, etc. I, on the other hand, have professionally reinvented myself a few times, starting off at the District Attorney’s Office in Charlotte and then transitioning to commercial litigation at Wachovia/ Wells Fargo, with an intervening stint as General Counsel of the North Carolina Lottery.
I first became involved with the Bar as a young lawyer in the DA’s Office. Back then, North Carolina prosecutors received most, if not all, of their CLE at the annual DA’s Conference sponsored by the UNC-Chapel Hill Institute of Government. So most ADAs didn’t access the Bar for CLE. And while the DA’s Office fielded a softball team that played in the MCB league, most ADAs saw the Bar as a disconnected taxing authority without much personal relevance to their daily practice.
Then my mentor/colleague suggested that I learn more about the Bar and become more involved. It’s a great way to meet people, expand your network, serve the community and drive change. “It’s something different,” she said. “Try it. You might like it.” And so I did. I tried something different. And like it, I did indeed.
There’s something for everybody. Really! If you need CLE, MCB offers a wide variety of relevant, engaging, reasonably-priced options. If you would like a mentor or if you’d like to share your hard-earned wisdom with a mentee, MCB offers opportunities to do that. From middle school to law school to young lawyers, MCB has several options to share the nuances of practicing law and lessons learned along the way. If you want to serve the unmet legal needs in our community, MCB can connect you with people, projects and agencies to help do that. If you’re interested in expanding your network, MCB has lots of committees that facilitate the business of MCB, but that also offer the opportunity to meet new people and develop relationships outside your practice area. And if you enjoy sports like softball or basketball, MCB offers that, too.
As we kick off this new fiscal year, let’s find a new way to connect with MCB, our colleagues, and our community. Try something different. You might like it. And in the end, let’s be intentional about improving the world around us.
I look forward to seeing you at the next Bar event!