Introducing the NCBA Professional Vitality Committee

By Erna Womble
Welcome to the blog of the newly minted Professional Vitality Committee (PVC) of the NCBA!  I am Erna Womble, and it’s my honor to serve as Chair this year, and my pleasure to say that Holly Morris is serving as our Communities Manager (NCBA staff liaison).

But wait . . . What the dickens,” many of you might ask, is the Professional Vitality Committee?  I knew it as the Professional Wellness Committee, with its sub-group the Transitioning Lawyers Commission, as it was last year.”  Well, that’s a timely question and it will be a privilege to be your tour guide on the exciting journey on which this committee is embarking.

From wellness to vitality

But before we set out, a bit about the re-christening of this committee. Referring to the theme of the Annual Meeting, which centered on Professional Wellness, President LeAnn Nease Brown summed it up with characteristic eloquence:

“We are in a profession of helping others but to help others, we must take care of ourselves. Last year, President Grant combined our committees focusing on Professional Wellness. This year, Erna Womble will chair the committee with a focus on the well-being of legal professionals ­–from the beginning of career to winding down, to retired – not only on the stresses of the profession but on the joys of our life experiences: on living while lawyering. We have renamed the committee the Professional Vitality Committee because vitality is the state of being strong and active; it is the power of enduring, the capacity to live and develop. We celebrate the humanity of our profession, not only as lawyers and legal professionals but as parents and grandparents, musicians and rock climbers, hikers and stamp collectors, painters and poets, dreamers and dancers. Vitality is having the strength in ourselves and our community to have full lives as lawyers. Advancing the well-being of our members and our profession gives us wings.

President Brown’s inspirational and practical remarks epitomize the spirit and vision of the PVC. Our first meeting is September 12, and the committee is enthusiastic about our work within the NCBA community. As President Brown observed, “We use the term community deliberately.  Community is the feeling of fellowship and kinship with others from sharing common interests, and goals… Friends who share the desire to achieve NCBA’s mission ‘to encourage and support the highest standards of integrity, competence, civility and well-being of all members of the profession.’”

This year’s Annual Meeting afforded attendees the opportunity to have fun, be informed, get relaxed, AND earn CLE credit for it. If you heard the opening keynote by Stan Phelps, participated in the splendid presentations given by Jeena Cho, Laura Mahr, and April Harris-Britt, and heard Greg Romeo, you probably had a similar experience.

The work of the PVC

In the coming year, our objective is to curate and offer application of resources which infuse vitality into the professional and personal lives of lawyers, judges, and other legal professionals – from the threshold of entry into our profession, through the inevitable ups and downs of effective lawyering, into the winding down of practice and retirement.  We will also be building on prior work done by members of PVC’s predecessor committees.

We have tools at hand, some of which were developed by prior members, including some of you.  By way of example, “The State of the Profession/Quality of Life Survey” conducted in 2017 has been summarized in a slide deck which compares data to the same survey conducted in 2002.  “Turning Out the Lights” is a NCBA/NCBF publication in its 3rd edition to help retiring lawyers.

Importantly, we seek to draw on our collective experiences as legal professionals at varying stages of life and career(s) to provide the nexus of thought and vision to promote resilient leadership in these times of rapid universal and personal change (sometimes exciting and sometimes stressful).

The skills that help us successfully deal with the pressures and varying stress-levels inherent in an adversarial profession are essential to the health and vitality of the NCBA community. Our PVC can bring together proven ideas and resources which encourage skills that positively affect human behavior and enhance enjoyment of being a legal professional.


Erna Womble
Clearly Bespoke Strategies, Inc.1
Chair, Professional Vitality Committee, NCBA


1 A Strategic Advising Company
Retired Partner Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice LLP (now Womble Bond Dickinson (US) LLP)