Tell us a little about yourself.
I spent several years in the non-profit sector after college. My first job was with AmeriCorp Vista, which is akin to a domestic Peace Corps that fights poverty throughout the U.S. I placed in Columbus, Ohio, where I helped develop and fund a program for working poor to save for assets such as a home or a business.
After my year was completed, I came back home to Winston-Salem to work for a non-profit organization called Family Services, Inc. I was a volunteer coordinator; in particular, I helped them recruit and retain teenage volunteers. I did that about three years, then went to law school where I fell in love with the law.
Why did you choose the firm?
Womble Carlyle provided the most interesting and the most diverse work. The cases we get are challenging and provide me with an opportunity to grow. The work our clients entrust us to do is so important and compelling. No two cases are exactly the same, and I like that.
Was it difficult to make the transition from law student to practicing lawyer?
Any transition is going to be hard. By the time you leave law school, you've done one thing for three years, and then you are asked to do something completely different.
But the firm has resources to help. For example, you are assigned a mentor to guide you through the first year. My supervising member had a lot of experience training new attorneys, and that was a big help. The practice of law is an apprenticeship; the best way to learn is from those with experience.
The firm recently started a new Entry-Level Associate Program, which provides a year-long, comprehensive training and mentoring curriculum for new attorneys. A new associate on my team is taking full advantage of it, as she's had the opportunity to sit in on high-level cases and learn alongside some of our best, most experienced litigators.
What was the most interesting case you worked on during your first year?
About a month after I started, I began to work on a breach of contract case involving steel cable that was going to be used in a major suspension bridge product. It was a dispute between our client, the manufacturer of the product, and the buyer. The member on this case gave me increasingly challenging tasks with this case as my skills grew.
The case has over $8 million dollars in controversy and has very good opposing counsel, so it goes to show that Womble Carlyle allows its new associates to work on important matters early in their careers. The case is still in litigation, and it’s been both interesting and challenging.
What technology resources are available to support your practice?
I'm probably the most frequent caller to our help desk! It's very helpful to divert these technical needs to a one-stop help center, and they take good care of us.
In addition, I often use the firm's word processing service. It's another great time-saver. And when I'm on the road, which is pretty often, I can carry along a firm broadband card and laptop, so it's like I've never left my desk.
Womble Carlyle also offers a full spectrum of state-of-the-art courtroom technology, ranging from SmartBoards to videoconferencing to video depositions. I always feel like we have the technical support to give us a competitive advantage.
Has it been difficult to balance the demands of a challenging legal career with your personal life?
Again, any time you have a transition, it's challenging in the beginning. But Womble Carlyle is a supportive place that will help you. I won’t say it's always easy to find that appropriate work-life balance, but it isn't impossible.
Another transition comes in learning how to work collaboratively. In law school, you tend to work alone. In this environment, you tend to work as teams, particularly in litigation. You are no longer accountable to yourself, but also to the entire team. But that's good—we support, help and encourage each other.
What kinds of community service or pro bono projects have you worked on this year?
I've assisted on a pro bono death penalty appeal case- researching and writing portions of briefs. I'm also on the Board of Directors for HandsOn Northwest North Carolina, which supports volunteers and other non-profits. Finally, I am on our local United Way's Impact Council. Womble Carlyle has a long history of community engagement and pro bono service, so new associates are encouraged to participate in these worthwhile activities.