A Glimpse Into the Lives of Lawyer-Writers: Three NCBarBlog Contributors Share Their Thoughts on Writing

How can North Carolina attorneys bring together dual interests in writing and the law? For three NCBA members, the answer is simple: by writing pieces to be read on NCBarBlog.

Writing well is a fundamental skill in a lawyer’s role. When it comes to writing outside of one’s practice, writing can be enjoyable, rewarding and beneficial to colleagues and the public, connecting one writer with other members in a section, and empowering attorneys to make a difference in the lives of others.

This is what writing means to three attorney-writers, Erika Richmond, John Hodnette and Eva Lorenz, who are by day attorneys, and outside of the office, writers whose articles have appeared on NCBarBlog, the blog community of the NCBA.

Since November 2015, NCBarBlog has served to bring together sections, divisions and committees via the written word. Over the last seven years, the blog has continued to grow and holds 1,800 posts. More than 300 pieces were published in 2021, and new posts are added on a weekly basis.

Why is it important for attorneys to share their knowledge and experience with others through writing, and on the blog in particular? How can an interest in the law be brought together with a passion for writing, and how is the act of writing meaningful for attorneys?

These are the questions we asked three NCBA members who have published pieces on NCBarBlog. For them, writing is an important skill and a way to learn, share information, and inspire other lawyers. Below, they discuss the relationship between the law and writing, and its ability to inform minds, touch hearts, and make an impact on the lives of readers.

Erika RichmondErika Richmond

Erika Richmond is a 2020 graduate of North Carolina Central University School of Law and a postdoctoral research associate at the University of North Carolina Center for Civil Rights.

A member of the Young Lawyers Division, Erika authored a post on the topic of taking the bar exam in July of 2020. She did not pass it the first time, yet she succeeded on her second try in February of last year. She writes with candor on what it is like to try your best only to receive an unexpected outcome. Erika expresses how she overcame a less than ideal experience, one that she overpowered with a win.

The post has received more than 1,000 views to date and was a top-performing post in 2021.

“It means the world to me that so many people feel what I wrote. It really comes from the heart,” she shares.

Although the experience of failing the bar exam is not often discussed, it is an experience that individuals can relate to. After the post was published, Erika was surprised by what happened next: law students who also did not pass on their first try began to reach out to her. The chance to talk with students who were preparing to take the exam again and to encourage them is something Erika didn’t know would happen following her post. It is something she is grateful for.

“Writing, especially for the blog, is a community builder. This post has taken on its own thing that is bigger than I intended it to be. People have reached out to me and asked for tips – ‘oh, I didn’t pass this time, do you have additional ideas about how I can pass next time?’ It has been good to connect with people, especially people I have not had very much contact with in the past, and be a cheerleader for them.

“When a person doesn’t pass the bar, they are beating themselves up, and often other times other people in their lives aren’t being sensitive to what they are going through. It’s been a pleasure to be a positive person for other people.”

And she is a cheerleader for many, as evidenced by the response to her blog post. There, Erika shares that as someone with ADHD, she requested modifications for exams during law school, but she did not ask for modifications the first time she took the bar exam. She describes feeling a sense of shame when seeking these modifications while in law school.

After her first try, Erika began reflecting on her decision not to ask for more time. When registering for the February exam, she made a decision to request modifications. She received additional time to complete the exam and passed it.

Erika, center, with friend Anne Marie Fristoe, left, and Shelly DeAdder, right, professor of legal writing at North Carolina Central University and Erika’s former professor, pictured at Erika’s swearing-in ceremony.

How did it feel to receive the news of her success?

Erika describes her overwhelming joy.

“I sobbed face down on my carpet. It felt even more of a triumphant moment having gone through that devastation a few months before.”

Erika’s courage to share her experience with others is one that has provided inspiration to students, especially those with learning differences.

How did she decide to share her experience on NCBarBlog?

Erika viewed a LinkedIn post written by Kayla Britt, in which Kayla encouraged others to get involved with the division by writing a piece on the blog. The call to action sparked an idea in Erika’s mind. She knew she wanted to write about her initial disappointment while also preparing to take the exam again.

“I don’t think it’s something a lot of people talk about, and I thought it could be helpful for somebody who was similarly situated to read the story and to know they are not alone, and that failure happens to people you don’t expect it to happen to, and it’s OK.

“It is something that has been ruminating in my mind for a long time. I wrote it in September of 2021 and found out I had passed in April that year. And I think that is another thing that people need to understand. Even if you pass, right after, going through the devastation of having failed, it still hurts. It doesn’t just go away when you get that letter the next time saying that you passed.”

Erika describes what it was like to tell her story. Writing gave her an opportunity to do something that she enjoys – and in this case, it was a pivotal step. Describing her experience has been meaningful for her, because it gave her a way to be able to process what happened.

“I sat down at my laptop and wrote the piece in about an hour. It felt like it flowed out of me. It was something I had to get out and needed to do in order to finally move on.”

Erika describes her love for writing as something she had from an early age. Later, while in law school, she discovered her interest in legal writing, one she mentions helped her in graduating with honors. In addition to the blog post, Erika has recently written an op-ed. She values writing because it allows people to learn and grow.

“Writing is a good conversation starter. It is a way to get in there so that you can exchange ideas with other people.”

Erika’s love of writing is rooted in her love for reading.

Who are some of her favorite writers?

“Alice Walker, Zora Neale Hurston and Toni Morrison. They took a lot of inspiration from their own experiences. What they write about often reflects where they grew up, people in their town. They all write what they know, even if the names are changed, and if the towns are changed. That is what I did with my blog post. I wrote about something I truly knew about.”

The first photo of Erika Richmond is courtesy of Dillon Davis, UNC School of Law.

John Hodnette

John Hodnette

John Hodnette, a member of the Tax Law Section, has been writing articles for the blog since 2018. With 24 published posts to date and one so far in 2022, he is an active contributor with no plans to slow down. In fact, his goal is to reach 100 blog posts. John’s article “Disregarded Entities and Partnerships” was the highest-viewed blog post during the 2020 calendar year with more than 3,200 views to date.

John, who practices law at Johnston, Allison & Hord, P.A., is originally from Alabama, and he has enjoyed writing for as long as he can remember. His interest in the subject led him to study English as an undergraduate at Auburn University. He moved to North Carolina to attend Wake Forest University School of Law, and while in law school, served as a staff writer for the Wake Forest Journal of Business and Intellectual Property Law. While earning an LL.M. at the University of Florida, John served as the graduate student editor of the Florida Tax Review.

“I just love the written word. I have always loved reading growing up. The act of writing – somehow, you are able to put thoughts onto paper that last for a long time and can be read by people theoretically even after you are long gone from this earth. That is a cool thing, and I have always been really fascinated by it.”

He adds, “The actual act of writing itself is also a great feeling, when you are getting your thoughts on paper and you get into that flow state.”

For John, his interest in writing is connected to his love for reading. He names J.K. Rowling and Ernest Hemingway as two of his favorite fiction writers.

How did he begin writing for the blog?

After becoming a lawyer in 2016, John was looking for a way to put his enjoyment of writing and his interest in the legal field together. John co-wrote an article with Carl King, a former colleague at Culp Elliott & Carpenter, P.L.L.C. Because John was looking for more opportunities to write, King suggested reaching out to Herman Spence, the communications chair with the NCBA Tax Law Section, who edits posts for publication on the section’s blog.

As John began developing articles, Herman encouraged him throughout the writing process. John was delighted to have found an avenue to write and to share his work with other tax law attorneys and the public.

“After I started going, I enjoyed it so much that I sort of made a goal for myself to see if I could do one every month. I have not reached that goal, but I get a good number per year.

“Without it, I wouldn’t be able to reach out to people with the topics I want to talk about. I wouldn’t have such a great relationship with Herman. Through editing my different articles together, I feel like we have developed a rapport. It is a great way for lawyers to meet each other and connect and learn together.

What does his writing process look like?

He finds the ideas for his posts are often generated throughout the day.

“A lot of the topics come up naturally in my practice, and so I will just make a note on a sticky note to myself that that might be a good blog post in the future.”

After getting an idea, John investigates further through researching and making discoveries as he reads and thinks about the subject.

“I want the technical side of what I am writing about to be accurate, so I make sure that I do thorough research, looking at other articles people have written, looking at the original source material, which most of the time is the internal revenue code and the treasury regulations, reading through them and making sure I fully understand.”


When asked why writing about recent updates is especially significant in his field, John reflects on the way tax laws can abruptly change.

“It is very important to be on top of trends and changes because it is an area of law that can change very quickly and frequently, as we have seen with the 2017 tax act, the change in the number of things and how there is talk of changing the laws again under the current administration, but it is pending. So being a tax lawyer, it is very important to stay on top of what the current laws are, how those laws might be changing, and how those changes might affect all manner of planning you have already put into place.

“It can be a really exciting thing. It is not a stagnant area of law, where you learn it once and it’s never going to change. It is something that is always evolving and changing, and that can be really exciting for your practice. You have to keep on top of things and you never know which direction congress is going to go and it can keep things fun.”

Eva Lorenz

Eva Lorenz writes pieces on cybersecurity for the Privacy and Data Security Section blog. In her practice, Eva is a consultant to small and large companies, assisting them with cybersecurity compliance needs. Along with Patrick Brown, Eva co-leads the section’s Third-Party Risk Committee. She has written on taking proactive measures to secure networks, educating users on how to spot phishing schemes, the Colonial Pipeline cyberattack, and more.

Because of her interests in data security and research, as well as her background in teaching, writing for the blog is an opportunity to bring these fields together. Eva provides information for lawyers in both small and large firms about what they can do to prevent breaches and mitigate their impact should one occur.

Writing has been a significant part of her life since she was young.

“I have always liked writing. Being German, it was always easier for me to write English than to speak English. I am a very shy person. A lot of people don’t believe that anymore. But growing up I was incredibly shy. Teachers had to call on me to participate. Writing was much more comfortable than speaking.”

She continues, “I used to write fairy tales. I never wanted to become an author. But I always found writing a fun activity.”

Eva, born in Idar-Oberstein, moved to the U.S. in 1987 to study at the University of Texas at Austin. After she graduated, she relocated to the Midwest to pursue a doctoral degree in genetics at the University of Iowa, where she was a researcher and an instructor. It gave her the opportunity to share knowledge with others, including a number of minority and female graduate students, and to help them in building their careers and improving their lives.

In 2004, she moved to North Carolina to attend the University of North Carolina School of Law, earning her J.D. there, and several years later, returning to UNC to obtain a Master of Public Health with a focus on leadership.

Eva brings her legal expertise and her passion for sharing information with others in her blog posts. Writing blog posts is a way for her to offer information to lawyers, the legal community, and the public, so that breaches can be avoided. Her goal is to provide lawyers with the resources they need to know what to do if a cybersecurity threat occurs.

“I think a lot of people have been surprisingly impacted by breaches. And a lot of firms have also heard about the threat of ransomware, which is considered a breach because third parties and attackers can gain access to devices and control them potentially. So I want to follow the best practice there and cite that part of incident response is preparation, and preparation means, in a lot of cases, training, and so, writing about what to do in case of a breach is one step to train my legal colleagues and the legal community in what to do when there is a breach.”

She hopes that her writing will help lawyers to have a general understanding of information security practices, which can be daunting without knowing what is happening.

“In the legal field, unless you have an established data security and privacy practice, sometimes technology can feel overwhelming, and you just want someone else to handle it, but at the same time, even if you have a good third-party to handle it for you, that you as a lawyer are still responsible for making sure that your client data is secure.

“Putting every lawyer in a position where they at least have an understanding of what goes on, not necessarily to be able to do the work, so when the third party says ‘I upgraded your firewall, and there is going to be an outage of half an hour,’ that the lawyer understands what is going on.”

Especially in the last five years, companies have become even more aware of their need to prioritize information security, following high-profile security breaches such as Equifax and Target.

“The Target breach was kind of a gateway that led to everyone being more aware that they have requirements for credit card security – there are industry standards.”

In addition to companies, individuals began to take note of these standards, such as guidelines for renewing and making payments, and best practices for information security.

“That made me want to share with a broader audience best practices for information security. Law firms have a lot of very sensitive client data, and I don’t want them to make headlines for the wrong reasons.”

Prior to her role as a consultant, Eva was the Advanced System Specialist at UNC, a role that provided her opportunities to learn about networking and information security.

“My first information security job was at a large company where I was involved in so many questions, and all of the sudden, became the compliance contact for anything related to computers. Even the in-house counsel would reach out to me and assign me projects in that area. While it took a lot of learning and coming up to speed on anything that was thrown at me, and at times, I felt overwhelmed, those initial years taught me so much, that these days, most questions that come across my table, I have an idea of how to start them if not can answer them right away because of having dealt with the large company issues for many years.”

What does she enjoy the most about writing?

“The freedom you have, but also the research aspect that teaches you a lot in the process every time you write something.”

Through her posts, she has the chance to share her knowledge in a way that is not overly technical. She has found that writing has helped her in her practice.

Speaking of the blog, she says, “It is a very convenient venue to share information but also to target a different audience that may be too remote to come to Raleigh and to attend things in person.

“Giving presentations and writing blog posts have helped me to avoid talking shop too much – I try to not use the technical lingo too much, but try to phrase technical items in language generally understood. It has taught me to be very clear in what I try to say without relying too much on ‘I am the IT person that gives out a bunch of terms.’”

She suggests that writing is a way for lawyers in technical fields to communicate in a different vein, one that has a positive impact on her writing to clients, who may not have technical expertise.

“We have to be clear in why we make recommendations but do so in a very nontechnical language so that everyone in the company – even the people who have executive management roles and make decisions but may not be technical other than they know how to use computers, but are not necessarily IT security experts or IT operation experts – so that they understand why we make certain recommendations. So it has helped me a lot in that.”

Eva, with years of expertise in the field of Information Security, recalls how she did not have any experience with a computer until after high school.

“I come from a small town in Germany, so when I came to the U.S., I came to the U.S. in ’87, I had never seen a computer. My high school, which was supposed to be a technical high school and had a reputation for being one of the best kinds of technical high schools in the state, had a couple of computers reserved for people who had as one of their three major areas, math, so the rest of the school never got to see the computers because we didn’t have enough. And we had only one person, one teacher who felt comfortable doing anything with computers. And I’m very passionate about access to technology, especially for rural areas.”

She adds that as part of an internship during her master’s degree, she studied the use of technology in rural areas, where there was a lack of access both to computers and to broadband. She hopes for more progress to be made in providing rural areas the access to technology that is needed.

Eva also serves on the NCBA Future of Law Committee that looks to use technology to further access to the law.

Jessica Junqueira is communications manager for the North Carolina Bar Association.