In our quarterly profiles that appear first in Trial Briefs magazine, NCAJ features members at varying stages in their careers: new members, rising stars and heroes. I talked with Rising Star Lauren O’Malley for a feature this spring. Know an NCAJ member who deserves to be profiled? Email me your ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lauren O’Malley’s father was an attorney who warned her not to become a lawyer, especially not a family lawyer. After 10 years as a practicing family lawyer, she’s still glad to have ignored his advice. O’Malley says that surviving in the notoriously high-stress practice area means learning to avoid taking on every client’s emotions as they go through the difficult process of divorce. But after the negotiations and battles are over, it’s good to let yourself revel in their post-divorce rebounds. She says hearing stories from clients who go on to find happiness after divorce makes it all worth it.
Triangle Smart Divorce
NCAJ member for: nine years
Education: Pennsylvania State University, Duquesne Law School
What drew you to family law?
I thought the topics in family law, most notably child custody, were interesting. In law school, I was involved with a nonprofit that represented abused, neglected and dependent children in GALs, and even though it was heartbreaking, I enjoyed that line of work. So, I was drawn to the custody aspect of family law. It is also an exciting area of the law where you hear so many different stories. You also get to help people realize their potential and what they are capable of — that there is a light at the end of the tunnel after they experience a rough time in their life.
What career accomplishment are you most proud of so far?
I was named a Super Lawyer Rising Star for the second year in a row this year. It’s a big honor to be selected, and then once you’re selected, you help in the process the next year in choosing the next class of Rising Stars. You’re voted on by your peers.
You’ve recently begun doing pro bono work as an attorney adviser for Enloe High School’s Mock Trial Team. How’s that going?
I really enjoyed working with the students and seeing how knowledgeable they were about the trial process. They drafted their own openings and closings and direct- and cross-examinations. I didn’t have mock trial where I grew up, so I didn’t learn those things at their age. I was really impressed with them and I enjoyed my meetings with them and just seeing how today’s youth are excited about the legal profession.
What do you most value about your NCAJ membership?
I think the CLEs are invaluable. The Family Law Section puts together a CLE in preparation for the specialist exam that I think is really helpful for people who are studying for the exam. The legislative updates that the NCAJ provide are also really helpful in knowing what is going on behind the scenes. It is also a really great networking tool.
What have you learned about the practice of law that you would pass on as advice to a lawyer who just passed the bar this year?
The practice of law is so stressful, but it is also fun once you find a practice area that you like. But you can get burned out fast. In addition to working and trying to get your hours billed, take time off here and there to focus on yourself and get refreshed. Never feel guilty or let other people make you feel guilty about that.
Did having a father who was an attorney inspire you to pursue a career in the law?
Growing up, I saw how hard he worked, and he did inspire me to want to be a lawyer. I was always told I was just like him, so I took that and ran with it. Both of my parents encouraged me to pursue any career that I wanted so long as I was passionate about it. They both supported me in my career decisions and celebrate accomplishments with me. My dad is still practicing and working long hours. But he tells me that he enjoys it.
What drew you to settle in North Carolina?
I love the Outer Banks and moved to Raleigh to be closer. I love being able to visit whenever I am able. Describe a perfect day off. Relaxing and being with family. If it is warm out, spending the day at the beach or taking my daughter to a museum or the zoo.