Ten Practice Management To-Dos For Lawyers During the Pandemic

By John O’Neal

The COVID-19 pandemic has given most of us more free time than we have had in a long time. While you definitely need to use some of the free time to recharge your battery and engage in some non-work activities, be sure to take advantage of the opportunity to improve your practice. Here are 10 quick tips:

1. Review your list of current clients. Make and execute decisions on some of the cases that you have not worked on in a while. Disengage from the cases you need to get out of and re-engage on the cases that you need to work on. Reconnect with the client if it has been a while since you have touched base. Assess statutes of limitations in all unfiled cases.

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Ironman David Daggett: ‘Every Crisis Conceals An Opportunity’

By Amber Nimocks

Here’s a COVID-19-informed update of our profile of attorney, community leader and Ironman athlete David Daggett that offers a look at how Daggett Shuler is addressing the challenges of the pandemic, how the firm’s signature Safe Sober Prom Night works in a season without proms, and how his Ironman training is going now that pools are strictly off limits.

When I interviewed Daggett last fall for a profile in the Winter edition of Trial Briefs, he was looking forward to celebrating the 30th anniversary of Safe Sober Prom Night this spring. His Winston-Salem firm started the program, which has reached 600,000 kids with its message of safety and responsibility during its three-decade run.

Then came COVID-19. Undeterred, Daggett powered ahead, setting up an awards ceremony for the winner of the program’s annual T-shirt design contest in late March — where everyone stood six feet apart. And though prom night is postponed, possibly cancelled, Daggett has promised that students will get their Safe Sober Prom Night T-shirts, which have become a popular totem of the community’s high school experience.

David Daggett
Daggett Shuler
Attorneys At Law
Winston-Salem
www.daggettshulerlaw.com
NCAJ member for: 34 years
Education:
BA in Economics from Indiana State University, law degree from Wake Forest University Law School.
Family:
Three children: Annecy, a junior at William & Mary University; Emmaline, a freshman at Swarthmore College; and Riley, a junior at Richard J. Reynolds High School. Daggett and his wife, Cynthia, live in Winston-Salem.

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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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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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Teamwork and Tenacity: The Story Behind the Secure Leave Initiative

Working Together, NCAJ Members Helped Change the Face of Work for NC Trial Lawyers

By Amber Nimocks

When N.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley announced last September that the state courts had changed their family leave policy, the news pinged around the globe. State and local media outlets covered the press conference where Beasley and NCAJ Executive Director Kim Crouch announced the change, the ABA Journal followed the story, and legal news sites as far away as Australia took note.

The new policy extends the time new parents are guaranteed away from the trial calendar from three to 12 weeks. This means a trial lawyer who has had a child won’t be called back to the duties of the profession for at least three months, giving that mother or father the opportunity to rest, recover and form a crucial bond with their newborn.

Join members of the Womens Caucus at their Second Annual NCAJ Women’s Caucus Retreat, scheduled for March 6 at the Kimpton Cardinal Hotel in Winston-Salem.

The publicity the change earned offers proof of how rarely the legal system responds to the personal needs of legal professionals. That the change was made is a testament to the leadership of North Carolina’s judiciary and to the tenacity and foresight of the NCAJ’s Women’s Caucus and the NCAJ members and partners who supported the effort.

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Best Lawyers vs. Best Lawyering: When Listening Is Better Than Having the Answer

By Vernon Sumwalt

Cal called the first week of November and asked if we could meet at Starbucks.

“Sure thing,” I said, without hesitation.

Now, you have to understand two things about Cal’s call. First, I had never been to Starbucks in my life. (No joke!) And Cal knew this. Second, Cal — which isn’t his real name, of course — doesn’t drink coffee. And I knew this. That’s how well I try to get to know my clients. Which is precisely why I responded so quickly to his call.

I had last seen Cal and his wife Allison (not her real name, either) about two years ago. It was early evening. We met in a strip mall parking lot in Charlotte. Not the most austere place to close out a case. There were people running around us, going to dinner, shopping — people being normal. In hindsight, this is all Cal and Allison wanted. Not lawyers offices. Not depositions. They didn’t want their case commemorated in a list of glorious verdicts and settlements in Lawyers Weekly or on some website. They wanted back to normal. Or as close to it as they could get. Cal’s last question in the parking lot that evening said it all: “Does it ever get easier?”

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