President’s Perspective: Mark Holt’s Installation Address

Build Community | Model Civility | Serve Others

Mark Holt Swearing In

Chief Justice Cheri Beasley administers the presidential oath to Mark Holt while his wife, Joanna, holds the Bible.

Editor’s note: Mark Holt of Raleigh is the 126th president of the North Carolina Bar Association. He was installed during the NCBA Annual Meeting on Friday, June 26, at the N.C. Bar Center. Holt will also serve as 2020-21 president of the North Carolina Bar Foundation.

Due to the coronavirus restrictions, the annual meeting was conducted with limited in-person attendance and webcast statewide to NCBA members. Mark Holt’s installation address follows:

Thank you, Chief Justice Beasley. And thank you to all the members of our profession and our association. I am deeply grateful for the trust you have placed in me.

A year ago, you invited me to serve as your President-Elect. In response, I pledged my all to help the North Carolina Bar Association be a welcoming, encouraging and supportive home to the entire legal community of our state.

I shared my deep passion for our profession and the sacred and vital work to which we are called. Serving you and being among you over the past year has been one of the greatest joys of my life.

We welcomed 2020 together, eagerly poised for the future. And then, our world changed as we began to face some of the most serious crises of our lives.

Before this occurred, I considered three goals for our bar year together: to build community, model civility and serve others.

As we now face historic challenges, I still believe these aspirations should guide us in this time of change. Never has it been more important that we stand together as a supportive community of legal professionals living out the highest ideals of integrity, civility and professionalism while dedicating ourselves to the effective administration of justice and respect for the rule of law.

It is my hope the bonds within our profession will strengthen as we seek to deliver what the public needs, which is a legal community working together to deliver legal services and a system of justice in which the needs of all are served and in which all have confidence.

Mark Holt Acceptance Remarks

Mark Holt, newly installed president of the North Carolina Bar Association and North Carolina Bar Foundation, delivers his installation address.

During the past year, I witnessed the very best of our profession: lawyers valiantly fighting for their clients and working diligently through difficult circumstances. Whether drafting contracts, obtaining an emergency court order, or rendering counsel at critical moments in the lives of others, North Carolina attorneys and legal professionals met their responsibilities to those who depend on them, even as many faced economic hardships and transitioned to remote work.

I’ve witnessed judges and court personnel serving on the frontlines and utilizing technology to keep our courts functioning for the people of our state. We are grateful to the Judicial Branch and Chief Justice Beasley for directing safe operations of our courts and for our judiciary at all levels for their diligence, dedication and ingenuity in carrying out the vital functions of our judicial system.

The North Carolina Bar Association exists to support and sustain the legal community of our state and those we serve. It’s a mission our organization has faithfully carried out for over 120 years and to which we remain steadfastly committed during these times of change. We want to support you, advocate for you and be welcoming to you as you serve the legal needs of the people of our state.

Advocating for our profession and those we serve is an important part of our work.

As COVID-19 began, the North Carolina Bar Association worked alongside the North Carolina State Bar to assure a designation of legal services as essential, allowing individuals, businesses and institutions to have their legal needs met during the pandemic.

In these critical times, we are grateful to serve as a resource for all three branches of state government regarding the delivery of legal services. Four North Carolina Bar Association sections provided research and drafting of legislation allowing video notarization and witnessing of legal documents during emergency conditions.

Our advocacy for these and other changes in our laws helps North Carolinians continue to execute important documents such as health care directives and facilitates ongoing business transactions vital to our state’s economy.

We also build community through service to our members. Through our 31 sections, 26 committees and four divisions, the North Carolina Bar Association provides a place for lawyers, judges, paralegals and law students to work together around practice areas and topics of interest.

In supporting each other, our members and sections author blogs, teach webinars, sponsor CLE and more recently host virtual gatherings on topics such as the CARES Act, video depositions, employment issues and virtual court hearings. We promote the vitality of legal professionals at all stages of their careers and explore the future of law.

During COVID-19, the North Carolina Bar Association provides online resources, legal webinars and timely updates about emergency orders and operations. Our Center for Practice Management supplies technology support and consultations to lawyers. Our Young Lawyers Division led a virtual wellness competition and raised over $150,000 for local food banks across the state.

During stay-at-home orders, our avenues to build and sustain community have been and will continue to be steady and creative. Digital gatherings bring us together, as we see each other’s faces and creative backgrounds and share stories of work from home.

The spirit of our common condition sustains and inspires us. And we’ve all stretched ourselves to horizons of technology that will leave us stronger beyond our current conditions.

To enhance our connection and your experience as a member, the North Carolina Bar Association is launching exciting new technology. Our new website and online systems have been carefully designed to help you access all member services, including expert series CLE and practice section resources, all provided as part of membership.

Our closeness as a community and our aspirations of civility will serve us well as we now are called to important work of change regarding racial injustice.

Acts of racial violence causing tragic deaths of Black individuals have led our nation and our state into a vitally important self-examination regarding race and racism.

As a profession that seeks justice, we must listen to the voices of pain. We must learn from the messages of protest. And we must seek a system of justice that works equally for all, while opposing racism and continually promoting our core value of diversity and inclusion across our profession.

As we engage in critical conversations addressing the systemic problems around race, we are called to model the very best example of civility by offering grace, respect and our best selves to each other as we work together for justice and equality.

I believe service to others is our highest calling. It will continue to be one of our most important goals in the year ahead. The North Carolina Bar Foundation unites the talent and generosity of our profession to be a power of greater good for the people of North Carolina through pro bono and public service and endowment grants that promote access to justice, volunteer service, civic education and professionalism.

As our Foundation celebrates its 60th anniversary, we are presented with the greatest needs to serve of our lifetime. Rather than dress up for parties, our volunteers and staff rolled up their sleeves and began serving. And we will continue to do so through our virtual and online pro bono programs.

  • NC Free Legal Answers. Volunteer attorneys provide free online legal advice to low-income North Carolinians.
  • COVID-19 Virtual Legal Hotlines. Attorney volunteers provide free legal information to callers screened by volunteer paralegals and law students. Topics include employment, consumer protection, family law, housing and small business.

During COVID-19, over 3,400 individuals living in 72 North Carolina counties have received free legal services through these two web-based programs. Other programs of the North Carolina Bar Foundation during COVID-19 include:

  • Frontline Health Planning Project. In partnership with the NC Pro Bono Resource Center, we provide advance directives to healthcare workers and other essential employees.
  • Eviction Assistance Program. In partnership with Legal Aid of NC, we serve those facing eviction in the wake of COVID-19.

Our Foundation also converted the Lawyers for Literacy program to an online platform where lawyers read books for students. Our Wills for Heroes program also is moving to a virtual format to provide estate planning documents to first responders.

On March 6, before stay-at-home orders began, over 400 volunteer attorneys provided free legal information to over 8,700 callers during the North Carolina Bar Foundation’s 4ALL Statewide Day of Service.

We are blessed by the generosity of our Foundation’s volunteers and donors and grateful for our relationships in a vibrant community of organizations across our state working together to provide access to justice for all.

I want to close by expressing appreciation to our members, our leaders, our staff and our volunteers. Thank you for your dedicated service. We need all of you as part of our community. We want to support you in the days to come.

I also want to express personal thanks to my wife, Joanna, and our children, Charles, Grace, Sarah and Caroline for your love and support. I also thank my law partner, David Sherlin, and all the lawyers with whom I’ve had the privilege to practice during my career for your friendship and support.

I am so grateful to LeAnn Nease Brown for the opportunity to work with her and for her careful stewardship of our organizations during this past year. I also welcome and express my thanks to Jon Heyl for the work we will do together and for your dedication to all we do. And a huge thanks to Jason Hensley for leading and guiding us with foresight and wisdom as our Executive Director.

Building Community. Modeling Civility. Serving Others. I hope all of you will join us in the coming year as we continue to serve the needs of those in our state and creatively stay connected and support each other.

As you seek to discern your personal calling in this time of change, I invite you to consider the words of Rev. Howard Thurman, a noted theologian, civil rights leader and mentor to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Thurman said:

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who are alive.”

We invite you to come alive with us in the year to come as we rise together to meet the challenges of our time; seeking justice and serving those who need us. This is our noble calling and our sacred responsibility. Sharing this journey with all of you is an honor and a privilege.

Thank you.

Mark Holt is the 2020-21 president of the North Carolina Bar Association.

This article is part of the August 2020 issue of North Carolina Lawyer. Access a curated view of NC Lawyer or view the table of contents.