Wednesday Wellness Sessions: How to Excel Under Pressure

By Stan Phelps

The human brain is the most powerful processor on the planet. It’s responsible for incredible advances in art, culture, and technology. Yet, at times, it can cause us to act like anything but a human being.

When we are exposed to a high enough level of pressure—for instance, when you find yourself in a tense negotiation with a client—the human brain loses its ability to distinguish between actual and perceived risk. This causes the most primitive part of our brain, the amygdala, to kick into high gear to protect you from an impending (though non-life-threatening) situation that it fears may kill you.

Read more

Ten Tips for the Quarantined Lawyer

By John O’Neal

Good day Counselor. I hope this post finds you and yours safe and well in these unusual times. 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 a few 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.
  2. In all of your litigation cases review your case management plan. If you do not have a case management plan create one and think through the steps needed to execute it. Discovery, motions, depositions, mediation, and establish timelines if appropriate. Also, devise estimated costs for the different phases and facets of the case, so you can better account for your time and fees as well as what it may cost your client for your handling of the case.
  3. Review your monthly expenditures and determine if you need to cut any items, add any items, or reassess some of the items on which you are currently spending.
  4. Go through your list of accounts receivable, aka clients who owe you money. Consider whether you need to provide deferrals, payment plans, reductions, or waivers. Assess the probability of receiving payment and then proceed accordingly.
  5. Think and rethink your current areas of practice. Is it time for you to disengage from certain areas of practice? Is it time for you to learn and undertake new areas of practice? Identify areas of practice in which there is a shortage of attorneys in your geographical area.Nowadays, you can use technology to broaden the geographical area that you service and cover. You can also use technology to obtain resources and content and relationships to help you learn new areas of practice and obtain mentorship and guidance as you begin handling new cases. Often, to get the connections, resources, information, and additional fresh perspectives for your cases and practice, you have to look nationally versus locally. For me, joining the National Association of Consumer Advocates is one of the best career moves I have made. I should have done it years earlier.Do not keep doing what everyone else is doing and pulling your hair out about how you will beat or keep up with the competition. To the contrary, think outside the box, do something different, fill the voids around you, and see the results. This is especially important for the new lawyer.
  6. Connect with some of your colleagues and your top referral sources. Identify your top clients and reach out to them directly with a card, phone call, or other means of communication.
  7. Review and update your website. Do not delegate or leave this task to someone else. You are the legal expert and should have the best idea as to what content is needed in the current legal marketplace of new clients. It is okay to have your web developer review your proposed edits but do not let the developer be solely responsible for the content on your site. And if you do not have a website, seriously look into getting one . . . and soon!
  8. Determine ways you can gain an edge on your competition. What are your strengths and unique selling propositions that can separate you from your competition? Also identify any current weaknesses or limitations that you can work on to better improve your standing in the marketplace.
  9. Find ways to give back. Mentor young lawyers. Be a resource for people who are interested in a legal career. Connect with your college or law school alumni association and take a leadership role. Donate money or time or resources to the community. Start a scholarship fund for high school students seeking to attend college or college students seeking to attend law school. Reach out to local organizations and groups as to how you can provide free consultations for workshops or resources/information to better educate them on their rights.
  10. Remember where you came from. If your family and friends and hometown provided you support that helped you to accomplish your goal of becoming a lawyer, think of ways you can reconnect and give back to say thanks. Remember that these people and institutions should represent your warm market and can often be the source of new clients and relationships that can really boost your practice.

Read more

Loneliness in the Law

By Marc E. Gustafson

As we’re all adjusting to this new normal, I’m quickly realizing that practicing law from home certainly isn’t without its issues. There are the technological issues of not having your files immediately at your fingertips, the inconvenience of not having multiple screens to compare documents and the reality of one’s unflattering appearance on Zoom.

Then there’s the very real problem of wanting to eat everything in the house, not just because of its ready availability but also the urge that stress prompts. And if you’re like me, you have the added pressure of trying to homeschool two young boys that have been stuck inside for large parts of the day without their school friends to help them burn off their seemingly endless energy. But above all that, there’s the loneliness, which seems odd given the constant comings and goings of my family through my makeshift office in the dining room.

Read more

Wednesday Wellness Sessions: Transforming the Way Attorneys Treat Themselves, Their Clients and the Law


By Alicia Journey

In the face of a world-wide crisis and unprecedented uncertainty, panic and fear are the true pandemic. And as advisors we are asked to put our own problems on the back burner and focus on those of our clients. However, we must ask certain crucial questions before we become a casualty of an unforeseen warfare, that of the health and well-being of those in our profession.

As attorneys, are we allowed to feel as if we are on the front lines when a crisis hits, even though we are not on the ground as first responders? Are we given permission to feel the weight of the trauma that we see, hear and feel daily from our clients when tragedy strikes? Who gives us this permission? Our profession? Society? Ourselves?

Read more

Slowing Down

By Marc E. Gustafson

I must admit this article began as a piece about slowing down to enjoy the holidays after I observed my almost five-year-old son napping on an airplane flying to see family. But then I thought about all the times I had heard someone (a preacher, a parent, an unsolicited stranger, a Hallmark commercial) extorting me to slow down, and I thought better of it.

Given that I was working on that flight, though, I started to think about ways I could slow down the practice of law, and maybe be a better lawyer for it.

Given the ever-present pressures of the billable hours (and the perennial jokes that go with earning a living in such a manner), it’s no surprise that lawyers are sensitive about time. We rush to draft closing documents, to serve discovery, to argue motions and to communicate with clients, colleagues and opposing counsel so that these tasks fit neatly into 1/10 of an hour increments.

Read more

Checking In: Jan. 7, 2020


By Sidney Shank

From left, Jeffrey Russell, Melissa Michaud, Colin Shive and Stephen Rawson.

Tharrington Smith Announces Four New Partners
Four associate attorneys—Melissa Michaud, Stephen Rawson, Jeffrey Russell, and Colin Shive—have been promoted to partners at Tharrington Smith in Raleigh. Michaud, Rawson, and Shive practice in the Education Law Section, and Russell practices in the Family Law Section.

Michaud has worked at Tharrington Smith since 2013, prior to which she taught middle school in eastern North Carolina through Teach for America. She holds a bachelor of arts in political science from Brown University and a juris doctorate from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Rawson has worked at Tharrington Smith since 2013, prior to which he was a middle school science teacher in Kentucky. He holds a bachelor of science in physics and a juris doctorate from Duke University.

Russell has worked at Tharrington Smith since 2013 and is a board-certified specialist in Family Law. He holds a bachelor of arts in political science from Furman university and a juris doctorate, magna cum laude, from Campbell University.

Shive has worked at Tharrington Smith since 2012, prior to which he clerked for the Honorable William Osteen, Jr. of the United States District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina. He holds a bachelor’s degree, magna cum laude, from Clemson University and a juris doctorate with high honors from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Read more

Pro Bono Volunteer Spotlight: Steve Epstein


Pro Bono Project: Lawyer on the Line

By Rachel Royal
Steve Epstein considers it not only his duty as a lawyer, but his privilege, to provide pro bono service. “If not for me, who will do this work?” he questions. Since April 2010, Steve has spent his days as a Civil Litigation attorney at Poyner Spruill, LLP with a focus in Family Law. By contrast, his pro bono work is where he steps out of his everyday comfort zone to delve into landlord tenant issues and customer disputes with car dealerships. He does this through Lawyer on the Line, a partnership between the NC Bar Foundation and Legal Aid of North Carolina. Steve has been volunteering for Lawyer on the Line since its inception as the formerly known “Call 4All.” He handles approximately half a dozen calls per year, but he often assists the client well beyond the initial call, which has included writing demand letters, problem resolution, and even filing suit on the client’s behalf.

Read more

Pro Bono Spotlight: Kevin Pratt


Pro Bono Project: Lawyer on the Line

By Allison Standard Constance
NCBA member Kevin Pratt understands that pro bono work is an opportunity to demystify the legal process for clients and pave a way to communication that can resolve clients’ issues.  Pratt works on consumer cases with Legal Aid of North Carolina’s Lawyer on the Line program, and he also volunteers on landlord-tenant cases with Legal Aid of North Carolina-Charlotte.  In his pro bono work, he finds that information gaps exist between clients and their corporate adversaries, and with representation, the free flow of information allows the parties to better understand the dispute and resolve it amicably.

Read more

Glory Days

Before They Became Great Lawyers, These Three NCBA Members
Were Part Of The “Greatest High School Football Story Ever Told”


In their younger days, Chip Gibbons (with ball), Steve Coggins (60) and Bill Farris were part of “the greatest high school football story ever told.”

By Russell Rawlings

In a previous life, it was my good fortune to write a book about my childhood heroes, the Fike High School Cyclones of Wilson, state 4-A football champions of 1967, 1968 and 1969.

Little did I know, while working on “Cyclone Country: The Time, The Town, The Team,” that three of those players – Bill Farris, Steve Coggins and Chip Gibbons – would take on larger meaning in my career as members of the North Carolina Bar Association.

Their names are familiar to many within the legal profession.

Farris practiced with Farris & Farris (now Farris & Thomas) in Wilson for 23 years before becoming a District Court judge.

Coggins spent 25 years practicing in Raleigh, including the last 13 of those years as a partner with Parker Poe. He has been a partner with Rountree Losee in Wilmington since 2002.

Gibbons practiced in Wilson for one year with his father before joining Poyner Spruill in Raleigh, where he is a partner and highly regarded tax attorney.

In their previous lives of some 50 years ago, they were part of “the greatest high school football story ever told.” Individually their names will not likely be found in the record books, roles reserved for their head coach, Henry Trevathan, and their superstar running back, Carlester Crumpler, both of whom are members of the N.C. Sports Hall of Fame.

But collectively, in their youth as in their adult lives, all three have embodied what is meant when it is said that the sum is greater than its parts.


Read more

Checking In: Dec. 20, 2019


Compiled by Sidney Shank
Holly Benton has joined Smith Anderson’s Data Use, Privacy and Security team as counsel. She is a Certified Information Privacy Professional (CIPP/US) in addition to being certified in Healthcare Privacy Compliance (CHPC). She holds a bachelor of arts, magna cum laude, from Wellesley College and a juris doctorate from the University of Washington.




Jordan Bernstein has joined the Charlotte office of Cranfill Sumner & Hartzog as an associate attorney. Her practice is focused on workers’ compensation. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Ohio Wesleyan University and a Juris Doctorate, with honors, from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.




Martha Bradley joined the Asheville office of Hall Booth Smith as an associate attorney. She holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a Juris Doctorate from Campbell University. Bradley currently serves on the Board of Governors for the North Carolina Bar Association.




Frank Emory Jr. has been named Executive Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer of Novant Health. In the past, Emory has worked as a partner at Hunton Andrews Kurth LLP, an international law firm.





Patrick Hansen joins the Raleigh office of Harrity & Harrity. He specializes in patent applications in electrical, computer, and mechanical technologies.






Sarah Crotts has joined the Charlotte office of Parker Poe, where she will work on the Health Care Industry Team as special counsel. She comes to Parker Poe from Wall Babcock LLP in Winston-Salem.





Hedrick Gardner Kincheloe & Garofalo LLP has opened its fifth office, located at 49 Broadway Street in downtown Asheville. Partner Kristie Hedrick, a Western North Carolina native, has relocated from the firm’s Raleigh office to lead this new Asheville office.





Nichole Hayden has been elected partner of Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough, effective Jan. 1, 2020. Her practice focuses on intellectual property. Hayden holds a Bachelor of Science, magna cum laude, from Wofford College and a Juris Doctorate with highest honors from Drake University.





Jason Kerr, alternative investments attorney, has joined the Charlotte office of Robinson Bradshaw. Before joining Robinson Bradshaw, Kerr worked as an attorney for Axiom in New York City. He holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of California at Berkeley and a Juris Doctorate from Columbia Law School.





Robert Lindholm has been elected partner of Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough, effective Jan. 1, 2020. His practice focuses on government investigations, white collar defense, complex business litigation, and class action defense. Lindholm holds a Bachelor of Arts, magna cum laude, from Union College and a Juris Doctorate, magna cum laude, from Albany Law School.





McCord Rayburn joins the Charlotte office of Harrity & Harrity. His practice focuses on patent preparation and prosecution in both domestic and international cases.






Bret Tingey joins the Raleigh office of Harrity & Harrity. He focuses his practice on patent preparation and prosecution for inventors in the mechanical and electrical technology fields.





Dan Hartzog, Dan Hartzog Jr., Katie Weaver Hartzog, Katherine Barber-Jones and Michael Cohen have recently left Cranfill Sumner & Hartzog and formed Hartzog Law Group. The office is located at 1903 N. Harrison Avenue, Suite 200, in Cary.

Dan Hartzog Jr.

Dan Hartzog

Katherine Barber-Jones

Katie Weaver Hartzog

Michael Cohen