President’s Perspective

Who’s Counting?

Over the last couple of months, a lot (I mean, A LOT) of people have asked me if I am counting down the days to the end of this bar year. The recurring question has caused me to step back and reflect.

On a professional level, the commitments of this past year have truly made for one of the most challenging times for me since law school. I have jokingly said in a few meetings, when asked to introduce myself, that “I have the honor of serving as the President of the NCBA and that I occasionally practice employment law with Ramseur Maultsby LLP in Greensboro.” And, yet, while the time required in this role is real, that aspect of the past year has not, for me, been the hardest part. After all, raising two teenage daughters with my husband has adequately prepared me for stress, technology issues, lack of sleep, and monitoring without helicoptering.

Instead, the most challenging part is that this year has required nearly constant attention to how we as a professional association operate within today’s cultural context, where polarization exists nearly everywhere we look. The inability to work within large (and even small) groups without devolving into adversarial factions is wreaking havoc on our churches, workplaces, schools, and even our families. In the midst of what is happening in the world and our communities, how do we not merely avoid that same destructive tendency but rise above it as a model of how to interact, to practice give-and-take, to value differences, and to lead?

Lawyers are supposed to be different—AND WE ARE. Our crucial role in society extends well beyond representing clients. When true to our calling, we recognize that as lawyers, we have special duties and obligations to provide access to justice, maintain an independent judiciary, promote the rule of law, and ultimately ensure our democratic government remains strong. Our towns, state, and nation depend on lawyers, of all people, staying committed to holding things together.

A blue advertisement with white words reads, "Time to Renew Your NCBA Membership. Say yes to another year of membership and a continued commitment to professional and personal growth." "Renew today" is the call to action.

While this year has certainly been challenging (and maybe even slightly painful at times), it has also been the most rewarding period of my professional life. Over and over, I have been reminded why I became a lawyer and why I am a member of the NCBA. During one of the meetings I participated in this bar year, the attendees shared why they joined or continue to be members of the NCBA. Their responses included:

  • CLE
  • It’s a place that embraces all people
  • Opportunity to meet other people
  • Camaraderie and a calling to give back
  • Important to protect the profession
  • Need to create a climate open for the younger generation of lawyers
  • Loyalty and sense of belonging
  • Community and resources
  • Legislative advisory work
  • Because we are better as a profession when we associate
  • Relationships
  • To meet other lawyers and do pro bono work, which is reinvigorating and inspiring and reminds me why lawyers are so important
  • Desire to be part of something bigger; energizing to be reminded of the higher calling; being part of the community of professionals
  • Networking

At our spring Board meeting in Blowing Rock, Rebecca Smitherman, a Winston-Salem attorney with Craige Jenkins Liipfert & Walker, LLP, talked to the Foundation board about why she is involved in the NCBA and donates to the NCBF. Rebecca explained, “I am proud of our profession. I believe that the work we do for the public is important, and the NCBF is our charity. It is a way that we can give back to the public through the profession that we love, knowing how much good smart, motivated lawyers can do. I am proud of NCBF programs. I’m proud of what our endowment supports, and how deliberately the NCBF does good in the world on behalf of attorneys.”

Getting to know Rebecca and many other lawyers across the state has been a blessing, made possible by the NCBA. Having the opportunity to meet and serve alongside so many smart, kind, and hardworking lawyers makes me confident in our collective ability to meet the challenges of our day—to rise to our higher calling and to pull together for the important work ahead.

For anyone who is counting down the days, mark your calendars for June 20-21. We will enjoy fabulous programming, and we have much to celebrate—including the installation of Kim Stogner as the 130th President of the NCBA. Join us for the NCBA Annual Meeting in Charlotte and bring a friend!

Patti Ramseur serves as president of the North Carolina Bar Association and the North Carolina Bar Foundation.