A Letter From The YLD Chair

Dear YLD Members:

I write this column early one Sunday morning. My wife and children are asleep, the house is quiet and, as the sun peeks above the trees outside my window, it promises to be a beautiful spring day. I am filled with a renewed sense of hope and inspiration and not only because of the day that is dawning.

Spring always seems to breathe new life into us. The world is reborn before our eyes. Spirits are lightened by the new growth all around us. We feel the urge to clean out the cobwebs, make plans and start new projects.

Spring is also an exciting time for the YLD. Like with nature, this is the time of the year when the hard work and planning over the winter months shows results for some of the YLD’s longest running and most well-recognized community service programs. It is a time for us to celebrate the successes of those programs and other efforts and to begin planning for the next year.

Throughout the month of March, the YLD put on the Legal Feeding Frenzy, an annual food and fund drive competition among all North Carolina law firms, law schools, and other organizations to combat food insecurity in our state, in collaboration with the Office of the Attorney General, the North Carolina Bar Foundation, and Feeding the Carolinas.

Maybe the best part about this year was the opportunity to get back in person for a kickoff event that was held on February 25 at the Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina. The YLD volunteers who came to the event got to sort and bag potatoes shoulder to shoulder with Attorney General Josh Stein and then hear inspiring remarks from him as they headed back to their law firms, law schools and other organizations.

Joining in the Feeding Frenzy kickoff event were from left Alexandra Southerland, Trey Ellis, YLD Chair Will Quick and Anna Jamieson Beck.

Joining in the Feeding Frenzy kickoff event were, from left, Alexandra Southerland, Trey Ellis, YLD Chair Will Quick and Anna Jamieson Beck.

We took the energy from the first in-person kickoff event in two years through to the competition, which resulted in donations of $225,000.00 (the equivalent of 100,000 pounds of food) going to our local Feeding the Carolinas food banks. The awards ceremony with Attorney General Stein announcing the winners of the various competition categories can be viewed on the N.C. Department of Justice Facebook page here.

On May 6 the YLD held its annual Law Day and Liberty Bell Awards Ceremony capping off the annual moot court, poster and essay competitions for elementary to high school students and awarding the Liberty Bell to a member of our profession who exemplifies lifelong service to the law in North Carolina.

This year’s theme of “Toward a More Perfect Union: the Constitution in Times of Change” was selected to encourage participants to become more interested in how the principles upon which our county was founded play a part in their everyday lives and how, through advocacy, they can shape their own communities to make the “more perfect Union” envisioned by our nation’s founders a reality. From hosting a moot court competition, to judging poster and essay contests, and putting on the McIntyre Youth Leadership Challenge, this is one of the most fun and inspiring events the YLD puts on each year.

Co-chairs Sidney Thomas and William Walton provide closing remarks at Law Day ceremony.

Co-chairs Sidney Thomas and William Walton provide closing remarks at Law Day ceremony.

And talk about inspiration! Just as spring inspires us all to action, hearing from students as young as eight years old about how they would address the biggest challenges facing their communities and what they want our country to look like when they grow up really refocuses my own reasons for going to law school and becoming a member of this profession.

Sure, being able to provide a comfortable living for my family is important and, yes, carrying the title of “attorney” brings some level of prestige and recognition that is uniquely satisfying, but the reason that I (and I suspect many of you reading this column) went to law school in the first place was to positively impact your community, your state and your nation.

There are many ways to do that – from representing members of your community who are unable to speak for themselves to using the skills and knowledge gained through many years of study and practice to affect policy change and many things in between – but the point is to not lose sight of your original motivation to make the world a better place as the seasons pass.

That sort of continuing dedication to using the law to make North Carolina a better place is exactly what the Liberty Bell award was designed to showcase. This year’s recipient was Professor Cheryl Howell from the UNC School of Government. For thirty-plus years, Professor Howell has taught, consulted on, and written about family law and other issues before our trial courts. She also works with North Carolina Association of District Court Judges and the North Carolina Judicial College in planning and coordinating judicial branch education programs.

I cannot do justice to the wonderful introduction given to Professor Howell by District Court Judge Christine Walczyk, but one comment about Professor Howell really stuck with me. Judge Walczyk noted that the titles “Judge” and “Justice” appear before the vast majority of the Liberty Bell recipients over the past almost 40 years of the awards existence. While Professor Howell does not have those titles, there are a lot of people who do that have relied upon the counsel and training provided by Professor Howell – often behind the scenes – in order to better serve the people of this state. Truly, Professor Howell’s career is an inspiration to us all.

Of course, the YLD has had a lot of other fun and exciting stuff going on too this spring. Our Law Student Outreach Committee has released a Clerkship Video Series consisting of pre-recorded interviews between law clerks and their judges from a variety of courts ranging from the North Carolina Business Court up to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. This series was designed to provide law students with useful information about clerkships in an easy-to-follow, leisurely format. Members can access the six videos from the Clerkship Video Series webpage here.

Another new project we began developing this spring is the Out of the Office Series. Through this series, we hope to showcase the activities and interests that capture the hearts, minds, and talents of our members outside of the practice of law. This project, which was the brainchild of Kayla Britt, grew out of a realization that the time spent at home during the pandemic was an opportunity for many young lawyers to explore passions that they might not have otherwise had time for in the past.

While we all hope the pandemic is in the rearview mirror, some of the habits and hobbies picked up during that time should be celebrated! Even more importantly, we should continue normalizing the idea that lawyers need to engage in activities that relieve the stress of our profession. The most recent posts in the series are the “Artisan Edition” and the “Fitness Edition.” If you would like to be a part of this ongoing project, you can access the sign-up form here.

While it has taken a little bit longer than we hoped to get back to the networking events that the YLD was known for pre-pandemic, our Membership and Outreach Committee recently held the first in-person networking event that was not tied to an Executive Council meeting in over two years at The Bohemian wine bar in Charlotte.

 Young lawyers enjoy in-person networking event at The Bohemian wine bar in Charlotte.

Young lawyers enjoy in-person networking event at The Bohemian wine bar in Charlotte.

Registration for the event filled up in less than forty-eight hours, which tells me that our members are hungry for opportunities to get back together for fellowship. We got the message and are working on planning additional events around the state, so stay tuned!

I could go on for another page or two about the successes of our various committees over the past few months and their plans for the remainder of this bar year and beyond, but I hear my two- year-old stirring and he, like the new day, waits for no one. So, instead, I’ll conclude with this thought: we did not accomplish everything we set out to do this year, but that’s OK. Pandemic fits and starts got in the way of a few things, our volunteer leaders got pulled in other directions by work and life commitments, and sometimes, we were just flat-out overly ambitious!

But, as the budding growth outside reminds us, success is about progress, not perfection. We grow from year-to-year, not all at one time. That is an important lesson for us all, and one that I take to heart as my year as YLD chair winds to a close. Instead of choosing to look back and dwell on the plans that never made it to fruition, I choose to celebrate the victories.

And, just as the warming weather brings the promise of new growth, the new bar year starting July 1 brings with it new opportunities for service both in and through the YLD. I take heart knowing the YLD will continue to grow under the guidance of incoming Chair Lisa Williford and the wonderful team that she is assembling. I cannot wait to see what is accomplished!

With Thanks and Gratitude,

Will Quick

Will Quick is 2021-22 chair of the North Carolina Bar Association Young Lawyers Division.