Tell me about your regular practice area: Where do you practice and what do you do? What do you love most about your job?
I am engaged in a commercial litigation practice at Nelson Mullins. I typically represent companies in litigation matters with other businesses or consumers. For the last few years, I have been involved in constitutional litigation generally relating to the separation of powers clause in the North Carolina Constitution, as well as some election-related litigation growing out of the 2018 elections. I enjoy the variety of substantive issues that emerge in my practice. That variety offers me the opportunity to research and explore new areas of law and advocate for our clients regarding those legal issues. I love a good appellate oral argument. At the appellate stage, the parties have completed the discovery process; the record is set, and each side presents their best case as supported by their research and the relevant law.
What is your most recent pro bono experience?
Most recently, I participated in the COVID-19 Small Business/Nonprofit Remote Pro Bono Clinic with the NC Pro Bono Resource Center. It was a rewarding experience, although solutions for the business owners were not always easy to find. The Resource Center connects the clients with attorneys and provides a good deal of compact training. Listening to small business owners and hopefully assisting them in navigating leasing issues, issues with federal grants, and how to safely reopen was both challenging and rewarding. Some participants had not used or spoken with a lawyer before the pandemic.
How has engaging in pro bono legal service enriched your career or enriched you personally or professionally?
Selfishly, pro bono work makes me feel good. While I certainly appreciate the fact that my law firm values pro bono and encourages us to give back, it is always nice to hear that you calmed a client’s fears and concerns or to receive thanks for providing a solution when the client feared there was none. Recently, I advocated for a pro bono client before the North Carolina Supreme Court during the first virtual session of that Court. That opportunity might not have presented itself for me outside of being engaged in pro bono. That client watched the oral argument streamed on YouTube, and following the hearing, he called me and expressed his thanks for the representation. It felt good that he said he was proud of my work, win or lose.
Of what moment(s) from your pro bono work are you the most proud?
I am proud of my work before the North Carolina Supreme Court through the pro bono appellate program and would eagerly do it again for the professional experience. But, I like the clinics I have participated in COVID-19 and disaster recovery. Interactions with these clients are shorter but, in some ways, more impactful. I find fulfillment in being able to steer a client toward possible solutions or offer client guidance in how to organize and present evidence to FEMA in a more persuasive way. These individuals and small businesses are always appreciative of my time, and I can hear some of the anxiety in their voices go away. I am proudest of my work when I can deliver a bit of peace of mind to people in need.
What advice would you give someone who has not yet provided any pro bono work?
Try it. Start with a self-contained opportunity such as a clinic hosted by the Pro Bono Resource Center or answering calls during a Bar Association event. You do not have to seek those opportunities. The training and involvement are short and discrete, and the time away from other clients is minimal. There, you can get a flavor for how attorneys with a little bit of time can do a great deal of good in helping people. Thereafter, perhaps you can find a project or area of aid that interests you and invest more time into it.