YLD Names Officers, Presents Awards
The Young Lawyers Division of the North Carolina Bar Association elected new officers and presented its annual awards during the 2015 NCBA Annual Meeting in Asheville.
Michael Wells of Winston-Salem completed his term as chair. During the ceremonial passing of the gavel at the awards luncheon on June 20, Wells presented the gavel to Harrison Lord of Charlotte, YLD chair for 2015-16.
During the division’s annual business meeting on June 19, Matt Cordell of Raleigh was elected chair-elect, Jason Walters of Winston-Salem was elected secretary and Rachel Blunk of Greensboro was elected administrative division director. Catherine Lee of Raleigh was announced as NCBA board liaison.
The passing of the gavel began with the most senior YLD chair in attendance, Bob Baker of Durham who chaired the YLD in 1971-72. The gavel proceeded to Gray Wilson (1986-87), Kearns Davis (2004-05), Patti Ramseur (2008-09), Craig Cannon (2009-10), Wells and Lord. Baker and Wilson went on to serve as president of the NCBA, and Davis was elected president-elect earlier in the morning at the General Session.
In addition to service awards for the previous year’s leadership team, YLD annually presents the Charles F. Blanchard Young Lawyer of the Year Award, the Robinson O. Everett Professionalism Award and the Younger Lawyer Pro Bono Service Award.
The Blanchard Award was established to recognize young lawyers for their distinguished and meritorious service and is named in honor of Charles Blanchard, founding chair of the YLD who served in 1953-55.
This year’s recipient of the Blanchard Award is Deyaska Spencer of the Attorney at Law Offices of F. Craig Wilkerson Jr. in Charlotte.
“This year's recipient was so excited to serve that she literally couldn’t wait to get started,” said Harrison Lord who presented the award. “While she was still a law student, she launched Legal LINK, which increases diversity in the legal profession by getting under-represented kids into the legal pipeline, and has grown into one of our YLD's signature projects.
“Since then, she has reinvigorated our Minority Focus Committee, spearheading this year's Youth Engagement Summit, which helped under-represented high school seniors complete their college applications, and in some instances got them started. Many of these students are exceptional minds, who simply have no one in their family or circle of acquaintance to take an interest or have the background necessary to help.
“Deyaska brings intensity and success to every project she touches, and has been a force of nature throughout her time in the YLD.”
The Everett Award was established in 2010 in honor of Judge Everett, a Duke law professor and former chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces who died in 2009. This year’s award was presented to solo practitioner Jake Epstein of Raleigh.
Epstein is a graduate of Duke University undergrad and Georgetown University School of Law, and he owns and maintains the Epstein Law Firm, PLLC. He has been active in the YLD for several years, and played a significant role in the success of Wills for Heroes.
Epstein will conclude his term in August as the YLD delegate to the American Bar Association Board of Governors.
The Younger Lawyer Pro Bono Service Award was created in 2001 to promote pro bono activities among young or newly practicing attorneys. It is presented to a younger lawyer who has made extraordinary contributions by providing exemplary legal services without a fee to persons of limited means or to charitable groups or organizations.
This year’s recipient, Erica Starling of McKinney Law Offices in Wilson, has been integrally involved in “Serving Those Who Served,” the NCBA Family Law Section’s signature pro bono project that helps low-income veterans access legal assistance with family law issues.
This help includes pro bono legal assistance with custody, child support, divorce, and other family law-related issues. Starling is always willing to take on any case, including complex matters. She has been a strong leader in helping develop the project, and in doing so, has helped improve access to justice for North Carolina’s veterans.