Embracing Our Differences With Diversity and Inclusion Efforts  

By David Henson

More than 50 years ago, our organization was founded by a group of visionaries who saw the collective benefit of uniting criminal defense and civil plaintiffs’ lawyers in a rather unique marriage called the North Carolina Academy of Trial Lawyers. At the time, this union was unusual and indeed, even today, we are one of only a handful of state trial lawyer’s associations with both civil and criminal practitioners. In the five-plus decades of marriage, our organization has expanded to now more than 18 different sections and divisions. One big family of kin under the same legal roof. Indeed, we are a diverse group, which makes for interesting reunions when we come together for Convention, Mountain Magic, our many multi-discipline CLEs and our social events.

As we have watched our nation falter with unprecedented political divisiveness, the COVID-19 pandemic, gaping disparities of racial justice, a swelling Me Too movement and countless other recent events, I am reminded that our differences are what bind us together. We are stronger together. Diversity comes in many forms and fashions, however, and our differing practice areas are just the first cull. Many of us further identify through our differences of geography, gender identity, race, sexual orientation, religious beliefs, political affiliation, age and more.  These differences make us interesting and make us powerful as a collective.

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We Cheered Justice Ginsburg’s Victories As We Understood Her Struggle

NCAJ asked two members to offer personal reflections on the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Pioneering intellectual property attorney Susan Olive offers her perspective here.

By Susan Olive

When I think of Justice Ginsburg, I most strongly remember her sense of moral responsibility, her belief that the law exists to do justice, and her willingness and courage to fight for what is right. She quintissentially spoke truth to power, working to carry out the Biblical command in Jeremiah: “Do justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor him who has been robbed. And do no wrong or violence to the resident alien, the fatherless, and the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place.”

But I also remember her “balanced” side: the side that said, “Work for what you believe in, but pick your battles, and don’t burn your bridges. Don’t be afraid to take charge, think about what you want, then do the work, but then enjoy what makes you happy, bring along your crew, have a sense of humor.” Her lifetime included decades of marriage to a husband she loved, raising children, enjoying time as a grandmother, and mentoring a bevy of law clerks.

Her fight for justice stemmed from a career shaped by discrimination. She reflected time and time again on being asked by Harvard’s law school dean why she was taking a place that should have gone to a male. That experience resonated. I, for example, was told by a professor that it was a waste of time for me to take his class because I’d just get married and have twins. Others around the country had similar stories. Ruth Bader Ginsburg was us.

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As Women, We Have a Duty To Continue Justice Ginsburg’s Fight

NCAJ asked two members to offer personal reflections on the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Helen Baddour provides this perspective on behalf of the NCAJ Women’s Caucus.

By Helen Baddour
NCAJ Women’s Caucus Chair 2020-2021

On Friday evening, after learning of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death, I called and texted friends and family until I could no longer keep my eyes open. The words that gave me most comfort came from writer and activist, Glennon Doyle.

Thank you for fighting for us so brilliantly, relentlessly, creatively, and fiercely – and for so long.
Rest, Warrior.
Tonight, we mourn.
Tomorrow, we fight.

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2020 NCAJ Legislative Report

Click here to read the 2020 NCAJ Legislative Report.

Consistent with NCAJ’s vision of protecting people, preventing injustice and promoting fairness, the Advocacy Team actively monitors the actions of the General Assembly in an effort to identify bills being introduced which may affect our members and, more importantly, our members’ clients. This “boots on the ground” level of monitoring at the General Assembly allows us to identify legislation early in the process with the goal of mustering support for those issues that align with our vision or rallying opposition to those issues that do not.

The short session of 2020, while “short,” was not short on activity due in large part to the COVID-19 pandemic. This report summarizes the bills that may impact the practices of our members. This includes a summary of the numerous immunity bills, all of the governor’s vetoes in 2020, and highlights of other legislative changes in 2020. This summary is not a comprehensive list of all 2020 session laws.