My first job upon graduating law school in 1997 was as a full-time staff attorney for a Fayette County Circuit Court judge in Lexington, Kentucky. I earned $17,000 a year (!) and when I left that job in 1998 to enter private practice in Lexington, I knew every single person who worked in the courthouse, how the court conducted its business and most of the judges and attorneys in town. I felt like I had the world by the tail.
Against that backdrop, it was humbling to move to Charlotte in 2002. My first job here was as a contract paralegal while awaiting my North Carolina law license, earning a fraction of what I’d been making as an attorney. When I did obtain my North Carolina law license, I knew no one at the North Carolina courthouses (or anywhere else), and it seemed I could do nothing right. For example, how I wish I had kept the letter from the Mecklenburg County Clerk’s office, advising me that unless I joined the Mecklenburg County Bar ASAP, my brand-new law license would be suspended. In Kentucky, all local bars were voluntary, so I had made yet another error. I had yet to discover the Mecklenburg County Bar.
What I know now is that starting over here was a gift. It forced me to be intentional about meeting new people, asking for help, developing relationships and earning business. I still make mistakes when it comes to my professional growth, but life has gotten easier over the past 15 years, in large part because I’ve taken advantage of the benefits of my membership in the Mecklenburg County Bar.
Last month, we hosted a swearing-in ceremony for the new local admittees to the North Carolina bar. Members of the MCB celebrated the new members’ accomplishments and began helping them navigate the local legal community. Now that I’ve found my place in Mecklenburg County, I’d like to share some advice with our newest members, so here it is: start building relationships, whether it’s at your firm, with your peers or in the community. A perfect opportunity to do so is the MCB’s Professionalism for New Attorneys CLE on November 7, which will fulfill a NC State Bar requirement and orient you to local practice. Other opportunities include our Law & Society Luncheon on November 9 and our holiday party on December 7. Finally, join the MCB Young Lawyers Division (YLD), where you can connect with other new admittees and young lawyers who have practiced a few years.
And to everyone else: please keep an eye out for these new lawyers and support them. Introduce yourself. Encourage them to be active in the MCB YLD; YLD Chair Tony Taylor and the YLD committee chairs are a joy to work with. Invite new lawyers to join you at an MCB event. Show them what we have to offer.