By Laura Graham
“For want of a comma, we have this case.” Thus begins the opinion in O’Connor v. Oakhurst Dairy, a 1st Circuit case decided in March that has rekindled a long-standing debate: Should the Oxford comma be used or not?
The Oxford comma—also known as the serial comma or the Harvard comma—is the comma between the penultimate and final items in a written list. For example, in the sentence, “The American flag is red, white, and blue,” the comma after “white” is an Oxford comma. Punctuation purists insist that the Oxford comma should always be used; but other constituencies argue that it is usually superfluous and unnecessary and should be reserved for sentences in which the absence of the comma would create ambiguity.
By Bettie Kelley Sousa
A recent e-bar announced the installation of Caryn Coppedge McNeill, the new president of the North Carolina Bar Association, and the election of the president-elect, Jacqueline D. Grant. A demanding, virtually full-time job spanning three years, the NCBA presidency often is held by big-firm lawyers who can commit such time to the profession and continue to feed their families. What’s not as common—the appointment of back-to-back female presidents.
Having practiced for 36 years, I believe it’s only happened once before.* My first reaction to this girl power moment had me nodding “ ‘bout time.” But, my second reaction was in response to the end of the paragraph about each woman. Listed after her firm was the phrase “where she has practiced her entire career.” Yes, I thought. I’m not surprised. Firm longevity is getting rare, but I’ll bet women constitute, percentage-wise, more of those who stay with the same firm from bar passage to retirement.
By Josh McIntyre
Most of my friends from law school switched jobs within the first two years of their practice, and I was no exception. Whether we felt unfulfilled, undervalued or we were just unhappy, job transitions within my peer group were common. Based on the communications we receive in the membership department, the desire to find new employment hasn’t changed much in the past six years.
Now entering my seventh year as a licensed attorney, I’ve held three different jobs, and each time I was looking for a change, the job search seemed more daunting than before. From custom-writing each cover letter to tweaking resumes, job searching can be a job within itself. That’s why I wish that I had known about the NCBA’s online Career Center.
This article appears in the August 2017 edition of North Carolina Lawyer. The N.C. General Assembly convenes again on Aug. 3, 2017.
By Michelle Frazier
The first five months of the 2017 legislative long session proceeded a bit more slowly than usual, but the action was fast and furious in June. Much of the early focus on Jones Street and in the Executive Mansion revolved around two highly controversial issues: the ongoing power struggle between Gov. Cooper and the Republican-dominated legislature and the repeal of House Bill 2.
Although the power struggle between the governor and Republican legislators continues to make its way through the courts, the March repeal of House Bill 2 cleared the way for consideration of other legislative priorities such as the budget.
N.C.Bar Association, May 2016, 75 pages, $40 for members/$45 for nonmembers
Congratulations to NCBA member Christopher Parrish and NCBA CLE Publications Coordinator Laura Bonfiglio for nabbing an ACLEA Outstanding Achievement in Publications award with the book “How to Try Your Case Like a Professional: Tips & Procedures for the ‘Relatively’ New Trial Lawyer”!
The Association for Continuing Legal Education will honor their efforts on the book, authored by Parrish and edited by Bonfiglio, at its annual conference this week. The book aims to help litigators get familiar with the procedures and expectations of a real-world courtroom.
Among the many tips included:
- Don’t get on the jury’s nerves; filter your objections.
- Don’t get into a verbal altercation with an expert. You will lose.
- Don’t bore the jury.
By Russell Rawlings
Who would have imagined that a blog series on weight and wellness could generate so much interest among legal professionals?
This thing is literally feeding itself.
One member writes in to compliment me on losing over 100 pounds and keeping it off for nearly 40 years. He adds that he is on a similar quest and is over halfway toward his goal.
In August, the NCBA is bringing you a free, month-long e-course on mindfulness. Register here.
By Joyce Brafford
Once, there was a woman walking down a path who saw a baby drowning in the water. She rushed in to save the baby. As she returned to the bank with the baby in her arms she saw another child thrashing in the current. She braved the river again to save the second child. Before she could return, she saw another baby in the water. A man who was walking down the path offered to help. Soon more good Samaritans joined in to pull child after child from the water. Each passing person offered to help. Everyone helped except one woman who dared ask, “Shouldn’t someone investigate why there are babies in the river?” **
This parable reflects our lives in so many ways. We tackle problem after problem, and never stop to investigate the larger context. It’s the same with our mental health. We patch up and move on, never stopping to investigate how or why we are anxious, moody, unfocused or fatigued.
By Joyce Brafford
I was recently very fortunate to participate in Law Firm Retreats at the NCBA’s Annual Meeting in Asheville. As always, the Annual Meeting was jam-packed with interesting and educational programs. But Law Firm Retreats was a new program, and I wasn’t entirely sure how it would be received or what type of content to expect. I was, in a word, impressed. The Law Firm Retreats were moderated by Camille Stell, vice president of client services at Lawyers Mutual of NC. Camille spent her time as moderator talking about and initiating conversation around the future of law.
“The Future of Law” is a term that we’ve all heard, but the meaning can vary from setting to setting. For the purposes of Camille’s talk, the future of law meant strategic thinking for law firms. She went on to define four areas of strategic thinking: strategic recruiting, strategic planning, business development and future legal market planning. Each of these four categories has important implications for the future of your firm. But what do these phrases mean?
Strategic recruiting: the careful consideration of your firm’s present and future needs, and hiring to fill the gaps in your current staff to meet those needs.
Strategic planning: consideration of the current economic, political, social and technological climate and assessing how those factors will effect the achievement of your firm’s goals.
Business development: the assessment and development of referral sources which you systematically reinforce over a designated period time and with specific goals set at the beginning of the period.
Future legal market planning: analysis of trend lines in legal customers and legal needs in contrast with your current abilities, and the development of strategy to address needs you’re not currently able to meet.
In the next four parts of this series, we’ll explore each of these areas, and how your firm can rise to the opportunities facing the legal market in the next five to 10 years.
If you have any questions about how your firm can be prepared for the future of law, please contact me in the Center for Practice Management at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Josh McIntyre
Three things begin happening between May and June that let me know summer is here:
- I have to wait at least two minutes till the AC kicks in before I can stand to drive my car.
- Parking on Franklin Street in downtown Chapel Hill is readily available.
- The number of automatic reply emails from NCBA members is significantly higher than usual.
When I receive those messages I always hope that our members are taking a break from work and heading somewhere fun on vacation, whether it be to a local beach or out of the country. But then I wonder if they used their NCBA Member Discounts to get the best travel or entertainment deals possible and if they downloaded the newest way to access those benefits in the NCBA Member Benefits App.
By William Joseph Austin Jr.
A 50th anniversary came and went this past fall without fanfare or commemoration. But for several weeks in October and November of 1966, Andrew Marvell’s poem, “To His Coy Mistress,” written circa 1650’s, was a “national sensation.”
On Oct. 17, 1966, the television station WRAL reported that a UNC English instructor had assigned his students to write a paper on seduction using this 17th-century poem. Subsequent investigation by a departmental committee determined in November that the instructor, Michael Paull, had not given the students that assignment, but asked them to use the poem to explain imagery and six figures of poetic speech.