NCBA YLD Garners ABA Awards of Achievement

By M. Cabell Clay
2019-20 YLD Chair

The Young Lawyers Division of the North Carolina Bar Association is routinely recognized by their peers—the Young Lawyers Division of the American Bar Association—as an exemplary organization for young lawyers.

Historically, the most common form of recognition has been through the ABA YLD Awards of Achievement. Despite the challenges and restrictions of COVID-19, the NCBA YLD has once again received commendation from ABA YLD for outstanding efforts in 2019-20.

NCBA YLD will receive Awards of Achievement in two categories:

  • Service to the Bar: Civic Engagement Project
  • Service to the Profession: Legal Feeding Frenzy


The Awards of Achievement are the ABA YLD’s well-established annual recognition program. The program is an opportunity for state and local young lawyer organizations affiliated with the ABA Young Lawyers Division (such as the NCBA YLD) to submit their best projects for evaluation and recognition by a jury of their peers. It is designed to encourage novel project development by recognizing the time, effort, and skills expended by young lawyer organizations in implementing public service and bar service projects in their communities.

The Awards of Achievement program also serves as a forum for the exchange of project ideas between young lawyer entities across the nation. Award of Achievement competitors are divided into divisions based on the size of the affiliate’ s membership, and recognition is provided in multiple categories including Service to the Bar, Service to the Public, Diversity, Newsletter, and a Comprehensive Award for the best overall Affiliate.

Service to the Bar: Civic Engagement Project

Generously supported by a grant from the Allan B. Head Fund for Leadership, Professionalism and Service of the North Carolina Bar Foundation Endowment, the Civic Engagement Project was started during the 2019-20 bar year and aims to educate and empower young lawyers to become the next generation of dynamic and innovative leaders in our communities.

The Civic Engagement Project seeks to remove barriers to civic involvement by providing young lawyers with information surrounding what it takes to run for office (including the judiciary), to serve on local, state, and non-profit boards and commissions, and to advocate on issues of importance to young lawyers and the legal profession. This year, chaired by Bryan Norris and Kevin Sweat, the Civic Engagement Project held two panels.

The first, titled “Pathway to the Judiciary,” was held at the N.C. Bar Center in Cary on December 11, 2019. Moderated by past NCBA President Caryn McNeill, a panel of current and former justices and judges that included Allegra Collins, Robert Edmunds, Paul Ridgeway, Melissa Owens Lassiter and Robert N. Hunter Jr. engaged in an insightful discussion about their experiences seeking or being appointed to their judicial positions, and how their legal experience and training helped guide them along their paths.

The second panel was held virtually on May 27, 2010. The panel, consisting of Anne M. Tompkins (moderator), Richard Vinroot, Ashley Perkinson and Spencer Merriweather, discussed their experiences in seeking executive and legislative office.

Service to the Public: Legal Feeding Frenzy

The 2020 Feeding Frenzy kicked off on February 28 with a press conference and volunteer event at the Food Bank of Central & Eastern NC in Raleigh. More than 30 attorneys, paralegals, administrative staff, and members of the community joined in the event and assisted the food bank with sorting potatoes.

Shortly into this year’s Legal Feeding Frenzy, a state of emergency was declared in North Carolina due to COVID-19. Throughout the state, public schools closed, layoffs began, and many religious and nonprofit organizations that traditionally served the food insecure throughout North Carolina were forced to close their doors for indefinite periods. As a result, an immediate surge in need was felt by our local Feeding the Carolinas food bank partners.

Co-chairs of the Legal Feeding Frenzy, Michele Livingstone and Erin Ball, immediately responded to the increased need by raising the Legal Feeding Frenzy’ s fundraising goal from 300,000 pounds of food ($75,000) to 400,000 pounds of food ($100,000).

To buoy these efforts, Michele partnered with YLD Secretary, Will Quick, to author NCBarBlog posts highlighting the increased need due to COVID-19 and asking our members to rise to the occasion. And rise the occasion they did. Within just 48 hours, online donations surpassed the new goal.

With the help of 60 teams across the state, the 2020 Legal Feeding Frenzy raised an incredible 604,332 pounds of food ($151,083)—more than double the original goal and more than had been raised in any past year. As Feeding the Carolinas generously agreed to cover all online processing fees, 100% of the food and funds raised directly supported local food banks in helping families in crisis.

Closing Comment

The NCBA YLD has a long history of receiving recognition from the ABA for its outstanding programs. I am so pleased we were able to continue that tradition this year, despite the many hurdles that COVID-19 presented. It is a testament to the dedicated young lawyers in our division.