The embrace of wellness is on the rise, particularly in the legal profession. The idea that professionals — even legal professionals — should expect to enjoy healthy lifestyles in addition to successful careers — is beginning to sound more reasonable to more people. But what does that mean? How do you go about being well, living the life of your dreams instead of the mildly nightmarish scenario you woke up to find yourself in?
As the North Carolina Bar Association prepared to celebrate and explore wellness at its Annual Meeting in June, the editors of North Carolina Lawyer magazine offered a few examples of NCBA members who are excelling at living healthy lives. The specific categories of the meeting theme — Work, Mind, Body and Life — inspired the profiles. The subjects, including Karin McGinnis of Moore & Van Allen, could easily represent all of these categories since they adopt such holistic approaches to life. The focus on her outstanding strengths in one area was included in hopes of providing insights for those seeking a path to wellness themselves.
By Russell Rawlings
Karin McGinnis is a successful attorney, wife and mother of four, yet she has never fully grasped the concept of work-life balance.
“Even when I was on the Lawyer Effectiveness and Quality of Life Committee,” McGinnis said, “I never quite understood ‘work-life balance.’
“My work is a part of my life, a component of it, just like my kids. A lot of people are like that. I never really split it up.”
She doesn’t have time to.
“I am not the poster child for work-life balance,” the Charlotte attorney proclaims. “Some associates will laugh at the thought of that. I definitely work a lot, but working from home helps. And I drink a lot of coffee!”
Perhaps the best example of the juggling act that McGinnis has performed over the past two decades occurred in 2001-02 when she was serving as chair of the NCBA Young Lawyers Division while carrying her third child.
“The hard part was trying to keep up with Hank Van Hoy,” McGinnis said in reference to the NCBA past president. “He wrote these beautiful short essays for his president’s column – he is such a great writer and a wonderful example of what we should strive to be as lawyers and human beings.”
Rest assured, McGinnis held her own, not only in providing six columns for North Carolina Lawyer, which was then published bimonthly, but also in leading the YLD through an outstanding year.
The first son of Mike and Karin McGinnis, who was born later that year, is now 16. Their daughters are 21 and 18 and their fourth child – and second son – is 9.
When asked how she has done it, McGinnis is quick to credit Moore & Van Allen, where she has devoted her entire career.
“I love telling this story because it is a good example of how forward-thinking Moore & Van Allen is,” said McGinnis, who grew up in Ohio and is a graduate of East Carolina University (1989) and the University of North Carolina School of Law (1992). “I am glad I landed here.
“When I got pregnant with my first child, I went to George Hanna, who was head of our litigation practice at the time. He told me to put my proposed work-from-home arrangement on paper and pitch it to the firm’s Management Committee. They were very willing to work with me, made a few suggestions and said, ‘Let’s try this.’ They were great.”
McGinnis was determined to prove female lawyers can truly succeed both professionally and personally.
McGinnis has long been regarded as an exemplary labor and employment lawyer, and she continues to devote much of her practice in that direction. In 2013, however, she formalized the firm’s privacy and data security work into a unified practice, which she now co-leads with Todd Taylor.
McGinnis also was in the charter class of the N.C. State Bar’s certified Privacy and Data Security specialists, serves on the Bar committee overseeing this practice area, and has also been active in the NCBA’s effort to establish a Privacy & Data Security Section.
“I think I have the personality that lends itself to learning something new and doing something different,” McGinnis said. ““It has been exceedingly rewarding to be a leader and watch that practice grow while teaching younger lawyers.”
Although their daughters have already departed for college and the oldest son is soon to follow, McGinnis doesn’t spend much time pondering the prospects of an empty nest.
“I was excited for my girls to go off to college and start new phases of their lives,” said McGinnis, who will turn 52 in August. “I love seeing them do their own thing as opposed to doing what other people expect them to do.
“And by the time our 9-year-old goes to college, I may be too old to care! I am excited about what lies beyond, what I can do when I am not spending my weekends driving around to soccer tournaments and other events. What can I learn next? Maybe I’ll learn to play the drums, or maybe I’ll take on additional volunteer and pro bono work. Whatever the case, I will probably still be drinking just as much coffee.”