NC Advocates for Justice Members Applaud Changes To Parental Leave Rules

Supreme Court Amends Secure Leave Policy At Urging of NCAJ, Women’s Caucus and Partners

RALEIGH — The North Carolina Advocates for Justice offers its congratulations and thanks to the N.C. Supreme Court for its decision to make parental leave available for attorneys practicing in state courts. Chief Justice Beasley announced the rules changes at a press conference in Raleigh today. Kim Crouch, executive director of the North Carolina Advocates for Justice, spoke following Beasley’s announcement. 

“We are happy and encouraged by the Court’s decision to amend this rule,” Crouch said. “It will advance the well-being of attorneys and their families during one of the most significant stages of family life. In turn, clients will be provided better representation. It is a positive step forward and a necessary change for all members of the North Carolina State Bar who wish to remain active in the practice of law.”   

The Supreme Court amended Rule 26 of the General Rules of Practice and Rule 33.1 of the Rules of Appellate Procedure during its conference on Sept. 4. The amended rule makes it possible for North Carolina attorneys to designate up to 12 weeks without court appearances within the first six months after a child is born, adopted, or placed for foster care.

Members of the NCAJ, its Women’s Caucus and other supporting legal professional groups proposed the Secure Leave Initiative to the Chief Justice’s Commission on Professionalism in February. The previously existing rule, which guaranteed attorneys just three weeks of secure leave per year, meant that parents with newborns or newly adopted children could be called to appear in court within a few weeks or even days after the birth or adoption. The NCAJ and its partner organizations argued that this did not allow enough time for parents and children to recover and bond, harming the child, the lawyer, and the lawyer’s family and clients.

NCAJ members, leaders and staff at the February 2019 meeting of the Chief Justice’s Commission on Professionalism. From left to right: NCAJ Executive Director Kim Crouch, Anna Kalarites, Melissa Abrams, Sarah Olson, Manisha Patel, Sarah Jessica Farber, Mary Pollard, Kristi Thompson, Helen Baddour, Burton Craige, Jennifer Watson Marsh, NC Association of Defense Attorneys Executive Director Lynette Pitt, NCAJ Director of Sections, Divisions and Caucuses Andrea Rutherford.

NCAJ President Vernon Sumwalt joined Crouch in congratulating the Supreme Court on its decision.

“For lawyers who are parents, access to the parental leave they need to bond with their newborns and newly adopted children goes a long way to support the goal of making the legal profession a sustainable, long-term career path,” he said. “This  policy also puts the opportunity to become a trial lawyer – or to continue a career as a trial lawyer – within the reach of a greater number of attorneys.”

North Carolina Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley joins members of the NCAJ Women’s Caucus and their families, NCAJ Executive Director Kim Crouch and NC AOC Interim Executive Director McKinley Wooten for today’s announcement.

In addition to extended parental leave, the new rule urges those in charge of court schedules to bear in mind the uncertainty that can surround a child’s birth or adoption date: “The superior court or district court scheduling authority must make reasonable exception to these requirements so that an attorney may enjoy leave with the child.”

Partnering with the NCAJ and its Women’s Caucus on this issue were the North Carolina Conference of District Attorneys, North Carolina Association of Defense Attorneys, North Carolina Association of Women Attorneys and the N.C. Attorney General’s Office. 


The North Carolina Advocates for Justice is a nonpartisan association of legal professionals dedicated to protecting people’s rights. NCAJ provides continuing legal education aimed at enhancing the quality of the legal profession, works to improve access to the legal system, and advocates at the state legislature in the areas of criminal and civil justice. The third-largest Trial Lawyers Association (TLA) in the nation, NCAJ has served its members for over 50 years.


The Mountains are Calling and We Will Go (to the 2019 Sustainer Summit)

by Vernon Sumwalt, 2019-2020 President of the North Carolina Advocates for Justice

John Muir’s finish to his call to understand our world fits NCAJ’s fun this Fall. Right after writing “the mountains are coming and I must go,” Muir added, “I will work on while I can, studying incessantly.” We all do this, and our Sustainer Summit will give us tons of takeaways to take our trial skills to the next level.

Our headliner is Mark Kozieradzki. “Koz” for short. Other than being a really fun person and having glamorous hair, Koz also plays a mean harmonica. Oh, and he happened to write 30(b)(6): Deposing Corporations, Organizations, and the Government (Trial Guides ©2016) and more recently Deposition Obstruction: Breaking Through (AAJ Press ©2019). We all know Koz’s books. They are not eye candy collecting dust on our shelves. No, we savor them. We absorb them until they transform us with new skills to handle the Goliaths standing in the way of accountability. Koz’s books really are that good, and having him at this year’s Sustainer Summit will be even better. He’ll teach an entire morning on how to deploy these tools with confidence, consequence, and skill.

We’ll also have North Carolina Supreme Court Justice Mark Davis teaching us about A Warren Court of Our Own: The Exum Court and the Expansion of Individual Rights in North Carolina, a panel conversation on the 2020 political campaign by Morgan Jackson of Nexus Strategies and Paul Shumaker of Strategic Partner Solutions, and a Saturday morning lineup of business development and law practice management tips from Tom Lenfesty of Law Practice Exchange (discussing “The Secrets to Law Firm Continuity Planning—Buying, Selling, and Other Succession Strategies Available to Law Firms and Lawyers to Continue to Practice without Fear”), from Dave Poston of Poston Communications (“Becoming a Better Trial Lawyer by Incorporating PR”), and from Tea Hoffman of Law Strategy Corp. (“Strategic Targeting—Finding New Clients that Fit Your Firm’s Ideal Client Model”). And don’t worry—we’ve scheduled plenty of “downtime” for everyone to enjoy everything Asheville has to offer.

NCAJ started Mountain Magic in 2003 for higher-level contributors to our organization. Although “Mountain Magic” is a great name, we needed to metamorphose this year, if only to mark a new conference format at our old favorite, The Omni Grove Park Inn.

Returning to the conference’s original intent of investing in our Sustaining Level members (Leaders Forum, Circle of Advocates, Presidents Club, Benefactors, Sustaining Patron, and Patrons) will, we hope, give a great big “THANK YOU” to those who take their investment in NCAJ to the next level. And the next level really isn’t out of reach. The lowest cost for a Patron-level membership is an increase of $475.00 from a regular membership for lawyers practicing over 10 years or, looking at it differently, about how much you’d save as the discounted rate for a room at the Grove Park over the course of the Summit, compared to a single night at full price. Follow this link if you are interested in upgrading to attend.

The mountains are calling us, so register today. We look forward to seeing you at the Sustainer Summit between October 17 and 20!

Vernon Sumwalt is the 2019-2020 President of the North Carolina Advocates for Justice and a partner at The Sumwalt Law Firm in Charlotte. Sumwalt is a North Carolina State Bar Board Certified Specialist in Appellate Practice and Workers’ Compensation Law and has served in numerous leadership positions for both the NC State Bar and NC Bar Association’s workers’ compensation committees and sections.