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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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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Strategic Targeting: Find Your Ideal Client

Look for this feature in the current edition of Trial Briefs, exclusively for NCAJ members.

By Tea Hoffmann

In my coaching practice, I ask lawyers on the initial call to describe their ideal client. Most say “ones who can pay” with a chuckle. While having paying clients is important, finding the right paying clients is even more important. But how do you find the right clients for your practice? Strategic targeting is a method that has proven benefits when it comes to attracting the right clients.

Strategic targeting is a marketing method wherein you identify clients you would like to provide your services to, and those clients are also in need of someone with your experience and expertise to do work for them. These clients can fit into a certain demographic or market segment or fit into a certain business segment you find fascinating. For example, if you enjoy an eminent domain practice, you should be targeting clients who need help with a condemnation or eminent domain issue. Your website should contain resources designed for this type of client including frequently asked questions and past examples of your victories and representative matters. Video testimonials as well as written testimonials are also powerful. Credentialing yourself as a “Best Lawyer” in your specific field or “Super Lawyer” is also a great way to set yourself apart from your competition. In other words, you must get into the head of your ideal client and consider how they buy and why.

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We’ve Set NCAJ Up For Long-Term Success

By Kim Crouch

Shortly before Christmas with the holiday season in full swing, the North Carolina Advocates for Justice received a gift that members will value for years to come. On Dec. 16, 2019, the NCAJ’s Board of Governors approved a comprehensive, five-year strategic plan that sets this organization on a path toward a modern, sustainable future.

We announced the news about the plan in December, and I am already working with members and staff to put it into action. But I want to take a moment as we begin the new year to reflect on this pivotal moment for our organization. I am humbled and honored to be leading NCAJ at this time and I am confident that we will look back on the adoption of the strategic plan with a true sense of pride. We have set NCAJ up for long-term success that will allow us to continue to protect the people, fight the powerful, prevent injustice and promote fairness.

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