NCAJ-NCADA Urge Members To Cooperate During Pandemic

The North Carolina Advocates for Justice and the North Carolina Association of Defense Attorneys jointly urge their members to work together to keep the justice system moving forward for the good of their clients and for the good of the profession. Find more ressources for plaintiffs’ attorneys at the NCAJ blog COVID-19 Resource Center.

Read the letter from Presidents Vernon Sumwalt and Lach Zemp.

Here’s How We Will Pivot During This Pandemic | A Message from Executive Director Kim Crouch

Let me begin this message by pausing to check on each of you during this COVID-19 pandemic. In this unprecedented time, I know we are all working rapidly to respond to the needs of our clients and colleagues. I hope you are all taking care of yourselves and your families as well.

COVID-19 is not just a public health crisis but also an economic crisis. The days, weeks and potentially months ahead will no doubt bring significant uncertainty to all of you. You will face challenges as you work to preserve your clients’ legal rights and maintain the health of your businesses. I know this pandemic will affect all our members – the backbone of this organization – and I will do all I can to support you, your practices and the legal profession itself. 

CONVENTION 2020

First, I’d like to address questions about Convention. After lengthy discussions, the members of the NCAJ Executive Committee and I have decided to cancel the NCAJ Annual Convention scheduled for June 18-21. I understand the importance of this annual event as it is a time to swap stories, share practice tips, and foster community. We did not make this decision lightly, but it is paramount that we put the health and safety of our members above all else. 

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NCAJ Coronavirus (COVID-19) Response & Update | March 18

NCAJ Suspends All In-Person CLEs, Meetings and Events

Through April 30

In light of the increased fluidity of the situation regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, including Chief Justice Beasley’s recent orders regarding the closure of the majority of the state’s court system, the leadership of NCAJ has decided to suspend all in-person CLEs, meetings and events through April 30. Where possible, we will offer CLE programs and meetings via a digital format or Zoom conference call.

Please note that this decision immediately affects the status of the following NCAJ CLE programs, meetings and events:

  • March 20: Executive Committee Meeting | This meeting will be held via Zoom conference call. Contact Courtney Jones with questions or concerns.
  • April 3: Board of Governors Meeting | This meeting will be held via Zoom conference call. Contact Courtney Jones with questions or concerns.
  • April 3: The 25th Annual Workers’ Compensation Roundtable | This program will be moved to Convention 2020 in Wilmington and remain an in-person event.
  • April 17: Land Condemnation 2020: You Don’t Miss Your Water–Practical Pointers for the Post-Map Act Cases Era | This program will be moved to August 2020 and remain an in-person event.
  • April 17: Employment Law Section Social | This event is postponed indefinitely.
  • April 23: Civil Rights Section Social at Clouds Brewing | This event is postponed indefinitely.
  • April 24: Death Penalty 2020 | This program will be moved to August 13-14, 2020 and remain an in-person event.

As of today, all May programming and Convention 2020 (June 18-20 in Wilmington) are still on track to take place as scheduled. We are closely monitoring all official updates from the CDC and NCDHHS and will provide regular updates to all members as they become available.

All NCAJ Section, Division and Caucus leadership calls, trial debriefs, roundtables, etc. and NCAJ Committee Calls will continue as originally scheduled on Zoom.

The NCAJ staff has been working remotely since September 2019, as the former NCAJ building on Annapolis Drive is now up for sale. We do not anticipate any lapse in service from the staff in the coming weeks, as they are already well-equipped to continue to do their jobs from home.  

Additional COVID-19 Resources for Attorneys in North Carolina:

We appreciate your understanding during this time. Please take care of yourselves, your families and your communities.

Kimberly Crouch 
Executive Director
North Carolina Advocates for Justice

NCAJ Coronavirus Response & Update | March 11

NCAJ Members and Friends,

Yesterday, Gov. Cooper announced a state of emergency for North Carolina due to the recent spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). In response to this decision, our team has assessed what this means for NCAJ events and programming in the coming weeks.

Like so many other organizations across our state and country, we have been closely monitoring COVID-19’s current and projected impact, as well as the recommendations of both the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS).

At NCAJ, we are committed to the health and safety of our members, staff and the general public. To that end, we will be shifting all NCAJ programming and events to remote access exclusively through March 31, 2020.  

Our goal with this shift is to ensure that our members and staff can continue to safely engage with our organization and that we can provide our high-quality CLEs and unique member benefits, such as section trial debriefs, as scheduled and without interruption for our attendees and speakers.

We do not currently have any live CLE events scheduled between now and March 31, 2020. Any changes to April CLE programming will be assessed in the next 10 days and we will update all members immediately to any changes in the status or presentation of those programs. 

The NCAJ staff has been working remotely since September 2019, as the former NCAJ building on Annapolis Drive is now up for sale. We do not anticipate any lapse in service from the staff in the coming weeks, as they are already well-equipped to continue to do their jobs remotely.  

The details regarding all events and programs between today and March 31, 2020, are as follows:

  • Section/Division/Caucus debriefs, roundtables and leadership calls will continue as scheduled via Zoom conference call through the end of the fiscal year.
  • Committee calls will continue as scheduled via Zoom conference call through the end of the fiscal year.
  • CLE webinars will continue as scheduled through SeminarWeb.

We are monitoring all developments related to this situation closely and will update you immediately regarding any changes to the plan detailed above.

Meanwhile, we can all work together to keep our communities safe and we’d like to share a few tips and guidelines we’ve gathered and fully endorse that will help in this mission:

  • Wash your hands regularly and for at least 20 seconds each time. Some great examples of songs to sing either in your head (or out loud?) while washing for a full 20 seconds include “Happy Birthday,” “Jolene,” and “Love Shack.” For more ideas, check out this full list.
  • Stay home if you are sick. If you are experiencing any flu-like symptoms, stay home and do your best to keep hydrated and well-rested. Thanks to innovations in technology, there are many ways to continue to serve your clients and community at large, even when you are stuck at home. Tools we’ve implemented at NCAJ to ensure success with remote work have included Zoom, Box, Slack and Basecamp.
  • Help combat misinformation in your community. As attorneys, we have a responsibility to those in our midst to speak and share the truth. Work to read and share information related to COVID-19 from reputable sources only. Be courageous in your pursuit of the most up-to-date and verifiable facts, while taking care not to rely solely on what may cross your radar via social media or news sources that depend on clicks to drive revenue.

We appreciate your patience during this time. Please reach out to our team with any questions or concerns.

Kimberly Crouch
Executive Director
North Carolina Advocates for Justice

Finding Your Confidence and Credibility: A Young Lawyer’s Take On Dealing With Experts

By Anna Kalarites

There is no doubt that our profession is becoming more diverse. I look around the courtroom and our NCAJ meetings and notice more women attorneys and attorneys of color than when I originally started practicing just five years ago. Before going to law school, I spent 10 years in D.C., and five years working at the American Association for Justice doing marketing for the CLE programs. Diversity was always something we were acutely aware of — we wanted to make sure the makeup of our programs accurately reflected our membership. I was fortunate enough to attend law school in Baltimore, where my graduating class was extremely diverse with a female majority. When I joined NCAJ and started practicing as a plaintiff’s trial lawyer, I went out of my way to seek out fellow women attorneys, and I have found great support and friendship in the Women’s Caucus.

But as the practice has gotten more diverse, one area I have noticed that has remained the same is the experts we hire. In my experience, they tend to be older white males who have gone to elite schools and have done very well in their chosen profession. As a result of this, I still to this day find myself getting nervous when I interact with my experts. Just this week, despite my five years of experience and doing dozens of initial calls with experts, I found myself getting nervous before talking to an expert on the phone. My stomach turned in knots, and I worried that he would not find me credible or take me seriously, that he would prefer talking to my boss instead. But this was my case and my client, not my boss’s. I had been the one poring over the medical records, the one who answered the client’s phone calls.

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