Members & Firms

We believe that every member has a unique story and we want to give you the opportunity to share it with the community. By sharing your story, you can connect with other members and build a strong professional and personal referral network. We encourage you to reach out and get to know your fellow NCADA members. Let's build a supportive and connected community together. 

Share Your Story! We're excited to showcase individuals like yourself. Simply fill out and submit our spotlight questionnaire, upload a photo, and send it to NCADA using the form below to join our waiting list. Then, stay tuned for your moment in the spotlight!  

Member Spotlight Forms: Member 10 years or fewer in practice; Members 10+ years of practice

  • 06 Mar 2023 9:36 PM | Lynette Pitt (Administrator)

    MEET:  Ruthie Sheets

    Ruthie Sheets is an an Associate Attorney with Harris Creech Ward & Blackerby, PA in New Bern, NC joining the firm in 2017 after graduating from Wake Forest University School of Law.  Ruthie's practice includes professional liability defense and general litigation.  A member since 2017, we're thrilled to get to know Ruthie!

    What drew you to the practice of law and to a litigation and trial practice? I have had the goal of being a lawyer since I was a young child. I am drawn to litigation as it is ever evolving and the same day is never repeated twice.

    What are your future goals and aspirations for your for career? To continue to grow my practice in professional liability defense.

    What excites you the most right now? Professionally, I am excited by my continued development and growth in the practice of law as a young attorney.

    Describe your perfect day outside of work. My perfect day outside of work would be a crisp fall day outside, strolling through downtown New Bern with my son, Tripp.

    How do you define success? I define success as being secure, content, and happy in whatever position or path you choose.

    Be sure to connect with Ruthrie and say hello!

  • 22 Feb 2023 3:12 PM | Lynette Pitt (Administrator)

    MEET Rob Harrington.

    Rob Harrington is a Shareholder; Litigation Department Co-Chair – Business Litigation with Robinson Bradshaw & Hinson practicing in both Charlotte and Raleigh offices.  Rob is a 1987 graduate of Duke University School of Law and has been an NCADA member since 2012.  As an experienced litigator, we asked Rob to share a bit about himself.

    What drew you to the practice of law and to a litigation and trial practice?
    I’ve always been drawn to representing the interests of others, and I really enjoy being in the courtroom.

    How has membership in NCADA benefited your professional life?NCADA is a great networking forum. And the legal and practice updates are very helpful.

    What is the biggest career challenge you’ve had to overcome?
    Balancing career and family. A son and two granddaughters in, the balance seems to have gone pretty well.

    What is your favorite legal movie or TV show and why?
    "My Cousin Vinny "– The courtroom scenes are hilarious.

    If you could meet one person, dead or alive, to grab a coffee with, who would it be and why?
    Martin Luther King, Jr. I’d like to ask him how he decided to sacrifice so much, and how he managed to accomplish so much -- in 39 years.

    What excites you the most right now?
    How much can be accomplished in the next 10 years or so of law practice.

    Say hello and connect with Rob!

  • 14 Feb 2023 12:04 PM | Lynette Pitt (Administrator)

    Meet Jasmine Pitt.

    Jasmine Pitt is a Senior Associate / Litigation in the Winston-Salem office of Akerman, LLP.   Jasmine is a 2015 graduate of Wake Forest University School of Law and has been a member of NCADA since 2016.  She has served on various NCADA committees and is a past chair of our Young Lawyers Committee.  Jasmine is currently serving a 3-year term on our Board of Directors.

    We asked Jasmine to share a little bit about herself in our Member Spotlight.

    What drew you to the practice of law and to a litigation and trial practice?
    It may be cliché, but I think a part of me has always wanted to be a lawyer. I have a history and a psychology background and find the evolution of law throughout history and society fascinating. I also enjoy helping people navigate their motivations and find solutions to their problems.

    At first I did not think I’d be a litigator, but a great firm with great mentors starting out helped me find my passion in the strategy of litigating. I stayed because I enjoy problem solving and coming up with creative solutions for my clients. I also love crafting an engaging story.

    What are your future goals and aspirations for your for career?
    To make a long-term impact in my firm and community. My goal is to be able to look back and not just be proud of the position I am in, but also of the work I have done and the people I have hopefully helped along the way.

    Who and/or what inspires you?
    I’m inspired by recognizing the opportunities I am fortunate to have. I am able to work with great people in interesting areas of the law. I am also able to use my position to advocate for businesses and the community in which I work.

    If you could meet one person, dead or alive, to grab a coffee with, who would it be and why?
    Thurgood Marshall. He was such a pioneer throughout his entire career and persevered despite so many systems in place against him. He never lost sight of where he came from and the impact of his voice and vote.

    What are you reading or listening to?
    I’m reading some of everything! In 2021 and 2022, I read a book a month by a minority female author. This year, I’m upping that to two books a month written by females. I have enjoyed experiencing history and stories through different perspectives and voices. Lately, it’s been a lot of historical fiction and semi-autobiographical novels of the great women behind some of the men and events at the center of our history.

    Describe your perfect day outside of work.
    A day where I can put my phone/computer down and just enjoy my friends, family, and hopefully some warm weather outside. The day would end with cooking a great meal and maybe a movie.

    If you could have any superpower what would it be?
    To slow down time – sometimes I wish there were just more hours in the day to get work done and spend time with my family.

    How do you define success?
    I’m learning to define success by my own terms. Success to me now is looking back and knowing that I planned the best I could, did my absolute best, and can say I have no regrets. Even if the outcome is not exactly as desired, if I did all I could, I succeeded.

    Say hello and connect with Jasmine!

  • 07 Feb 2023 11:09 AM | Lynette Pitt (Administrator)

    Meet Denaa J. Griffin

    Denaa is a Senior Associate Attorney/Management Employment Trial Attorney with Jackson Lewis, P.C. based in the firm's Raleigh office.  She is a proud alum of The North Carolina Central University School of Law graduating in 2013.  Denaa has been an active member of NCADA since joining us in 2017 having served as a committee member and chair of our Diversity Committee.  Denaa is now serving a 3-year term on the NCADA's Board of Directors.  

    We asked Denaa to share a little about herself in our Member Spotlight:

    What drew you to the practice of law and to a litigation and trial practice?  
    Initially, it was to equip myself to help others and to make a difference. I stayed because trial work is for people like me – people who know how to tell an engaging story, step by step.

    What are your future goals and aspirations for your for career?
    To participate in more trial work. I love assisting small businesses and business owners in mitigating risk, both pretrial and during trial. It makes a world of difference to them and might mean the difference between continuing to operate their business and declaring bankruptcy.

    What are you reading or listening to?
    Everything and (almost!) anything. I love discovering new artists, sounds, and writings!

    What would be the theme song of your life right now?
    Welcome to the Jungle by Guns N’ Roses closely followed by Plastic off the Sofa by Beyonce.

    Describe your perfect day outside of work.
    A day where time stays the social construct that it was supposed to be. Wake up without an alarm clock to grab iced coffee and go for a (mild) hike without headphones to ground myself. The hike would be followed by a day of pampering and reading. No cleaning allowed.

    Say Hello and connect with Denaa!

  • 15 Nov 2022 10:58 AM | Lynette Pitt (Administrator)

    It saddens us to announce the recent passing of John G. Golding. Mr. Golding was a Charter member of the NCADA serving on the founding Board from 1978-1980, and President in 1983-1984. Mr. Golding was a highly successful trial lawyer, specializing in medical malpractice defense work. Opposing counsel somewhat fondly nicknamed him "The Prince of Darkness" and "Mr. Assassinator." Mr. Golding mentored many members of the NCADA.

    Mr. Golding was a peer and mentor to many in this group of civil trial attorneys.  Join us in honoring John G. Golding for his service to the NCADA and to the legal profession.

  • 23 Jun 2021 11:21 AM | Deleted user

    What It Means to Be a Defense Lawyer – Tricia Shields

    Last fall, Allen Smith asked a number of us to write a column about what it means to be a defense attorney for The Resource.  When I sat down to write my contribution, I reread the previous submissions of my friends.  Some of their pieces recounted fond memories, some told funny war stories, and all were full of the wisdom of great lawyers.  I have deep respect and affection for each of the authors, and it was joy to read what they shared with us.  I am happy to have this chance to add my perspective.

    Having done this for a lot of years, I now see the role is a defense attorney as similar to the role of a good parent.  Our job is to advise and guide, to listen and to care.  While our clients’ fights aren’t our fights, they often feel like they are.   We speak for them, fight for them and protect them as best we can.  We have the responsibility to tell them the truth, especially when it’s a hard truth, and they don’t want to hear it.  And we sometimes stand with them in the most difficult times of their lives. 

    Early in my career, of course, I usually handled smaller matters representing folks who considered their case to be the insurance company’s problem, and me an annoyance. I learned the value of patience and persistence in those cases.  (“Yes sir, you really do have to help me answer these nosey interrogatories.”) I was also lucky enough spent several years as second or third chair, junior to the best trial lawyer that I know and sometimes to a more experienced paralegal, in more significant and complex cases. I figured out early on what an incredible opportunity I had been granted, and I tried to learn everything I could from it.     

    Those first experiences prepared me, as they do all of us, for the greater responsibilities to come. It has been my honor to represent people in all kinds of circumstances – some who were innocent of the allegations against them, and some who had made terrible mistakes with terrible consequences.  Some are terrified, worried, or ashamed. Being a defense lawyer means giving all of your clients, regardless of what they have done, guidance, compassion, and the best defense you are able to provide.    

    Being a defense lawyer means working very hard. I have come to accept that our work week will never be forty hours, and that everything always takes longer than I think it should.  I have also come to learn that even though working on weekends is a special kind of misery, time spent in preparation is never a waste.    

    In fighting for my clients, I have found that it is rarely necessary to fight with the lawyer on the other side, and it is never necessary to be unkind. That does not mean, of course, that we let anyone push us around or take advantage of us.  We can be firm in our position, without, as my grandmother used to be say, “acting ugly.” One of the best things about practicing in a community like ours, where people are friendly and have good manners, is that we can be friends with our opponents.

    Here in North Carolina, being a defense lawyer also means that we are friends with our colleagues in other firms, who do the same kind of work that we do. I hear that in some parts of the country, defense lawyers consider each other to be competitors for clients. Here, however, thanks to the culture of the NCADA, we are members of a supportive community. This is where I learned how to take expert depositions, how to pick a jury, and about all about the new decisions of our appellate courts. This is where I was given an opportunity to lead, and where I’ve had unbelievable support as I’ve pursued my dreams. This is where I made some of my closest friends. This is where I found my law firm home. 

    When I joined a defense firm 34 years ago, I had no way of knowing where it would lead. I am grateful for this journey, and all the friends that I have made along the way. 

  • 24 May 2021 11:22 AM | Lynette Pitt (Administrator)

    by David N. Allen

    When President Smith asked several folks to write a column about what it means to be a trial lawyer, I thought why do any of us need to do this? After all, no one has ever done a better job of summing up this topic than Sammy Thompson in his valedictory address at Hilton Head a couple of years ago. It has never been any fun to follow Sammy.  And the times I have had to do so, I have repeated the old comment attributed to John Warner, talking about his wedding night with the oft-married Elizabeth Taylor: “I know what I am supposed to do, I just don’t know how to make it seem new and interesting.”

    To me the real core of being a trial lawyer is persuading people. Everything that we do is about convincing somebody-judges, jurors, clients, opponents-to do what we want them to do. One of my great mentors, Hank Hankins, said that trial work was bending others to your will, and that’s accurate. We package arguments, present precedents, position facts, and use all of our powers to persuade others and to convince them to adopt our positions. Any skill I have in achieving that end has been shaped by the lawyers I have been blessed to interact with over my career. Those lawyers fall into a number of categories that I believe should resonate with all practicing attorneys.

    First, I have to acknowledge my Mentors. When I first came to the bar, I was lucky to work with some really good lawyers. My two principal mentors at the Golding Crews firm were Marvin Gray and John Golding. I have often said that Marvin taught me how to be a lawyer/professional and John taught me how to be a lawyer/trial advocate.

    Marvin Gray was an excellent lawyer. He also treated everyone with great respect and courtesy. Whenever he called another lawyer, Marvin invariably asked “Is Mr. Hewson in? MK Gray calling.” He gave the honorific to the person he was calling, while referring to himself as merely MK Gray. Marvin saw value in training young lawyers not only in the law, but also how to act with other lawyers. On most Friday afternoons, the associates would congregate in Marvin’s office where he would pull a bottle of Virginia Gentlemen out of his bottom desk drawer and we would then reminisce about the week or discuss an opinion that had just come out. Marvin read the advance sheets, and this was when they were really “sheets”. Marvin kept an annotated black notebook that he carried with him to court and later when he went on the bench.

    John Golding was cut from different cloth. John was as skilled an advocate in the courtroom as I have ever seen. John’s specialty was defending physicians, and he understood the medicine and how to present it to folks in an understandable and digestible way. John never talked down to the jury, but it was always clear that Professor Golding was teaching them what they needed to know to unravel the mysteries of medicine. John did not suffer fools easily. Luckily for me, those fools were generally found across the “V.” as plaintiffs’ lawyers, plaintiffs themselves, or plaintiffs’ experts, although occasionally John leveled his disappointment at those who worked with him. It didn’t take too many times of being shown your inadequacies by John to anticipate and shore up any weaknesses in your case. John also was an accomplished actor in the courtroom, bearing himself with presence and brimming with confidence. I learned from him that great art of appearing to be completely in control and absolutely convinced that you had the winning argument, even if you had a few doubts lingering down deep. At least I had those doubts - I am not convinced that John ever doubted!

    I was later blessed to have Hank Hankins as my mentor. Hank had that rare gift of insight into legal problems and the ability to hone in on the key issue that would determine the outcome of the case. And he was able to brilliantly marshal arguments and logic to ultimately prevail on that central point. A walk down the hall to discuss a problem with Hank always yielded a new line of attack or reassurance that you were on the right track.

    Having been equipped with at least rudimentary skills by these excellent mentors, I then benefited from my interaction with the Triers. I have been fortunate to try cases and work with some truly remarkable trial lawyers. I am reluctant to start listing the folks in this category for fear of leaving out a few, but the list has to include these friends: the late Jim “Butch” Williams from Greensboro, with whom I tried my longest case; Gary Parsons; Dan McLamb; the late Harvey Cosper; Jimmy Williams; and Jim Cooney. This is a truly remarkable cast of trial lawyers and I have to admit that I stole a little (or perhaps a lot) from each one of them. It was an honor to watch them work and to see how their approaches to trial work were so interwoven with their personalities and natural strengths. What was appropriate for one might not have worked for the other. These lawyers knew themselves and knew the value of being true to themselves in each presentation to the court and jury.

    I have also benefitted and learned from the remarkable Judges before whom I have appeared. My list must begin with the late Erwin Spainhour, whom I knew both as a trial lawyer and as a judge. I have lots of stories from practicing in front of such Titans as Frank Snepp, Bob Kirby, Tom Seay, Walter Allen, Bob Lewis, Jud Downs, Forrest Ferrell, and more recently before David Lee, Bob Ervin, Don Bridges, Louis Bledsoe, Jim Gale, and Mike Robinson. This is an eclectic group and shows the need for lawyers to adjust to meet the differing needs and requirements of different judges. What works to convince one judge may not work as well to convince another. We have to know a judge’s predilections and tailor our presentations to fit with the judge in a particular case.

    I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that I have also learned a lot through the years from the many plaintiffs’ lawyers with whom I have had to deal. I won’t list those names and feed their considerable egos, but you can learn from them, particularly from the rhythms and demands of their personalities. Similarly, the great mediators with whom I have interacted over the years have also taught me a lot. Two stand out to me as instructive. Bonnie Weyher has a gift of connecting with plaintiffs. She is empathetic, which immediately resonates with folks who think they have been injured or wronged and so, they listen to her. Tapping into some of that in my interaction has made me better at the art of prevailing at mediation. Similarly, Ray Owens has remarkable talent as a mediator, blending a cajoling nature with a wealth of experience and insight into the personalities and motivation of claimants and defendants and their lawyers to help the parties move toward settlement. The ability to read people and tailor arguments helps mediators and can also help us better represent our clients at mediation.

    Finally, I am quick to admit that I believe I have enjoyed a successful career as a trial lawyer due to a willingness to surround myself with lawyers who are a lot smarter and more talented than I. These are the Youngsters. One of my first associates was John Grupp. Despite a questionable background of Duke undergrad and UVA Law, John was remarkably easy to work with. Our personalities worked well together, and John’s organized way of thinking brought some order to the chaos I occasionally demonstrate. Lori Keeton, a very gifted writer, and Jason Benton, a talented trial lawyer with a superb outlook on life, helped me immensely. As did Chip Holmes, after I managed to convince him to come to my aid in a time of need and join our firm. Currently, I continue to benefit enormously from the work of my partner, Ben Chesson, a true craftsman as a writer with a keen mind and a prodigious work ethic. Blessed with real talent, Ben has made it very easy for me to enjoy some success over the last several years. And he has helped make the last few years much more interesting as together we have moved into new fields of practice and picked up new areas of the law to study and learn.

    I tell young lawyers that they should watch really talented lawyers and learn from them. When I was a young associate, we were fortunate that clients were willing to pay for young lawyers to go to trial and soak up the experience, knowledge and techniques of more senior lawyers. Now, even if you can’t bill for that, take advantage of the opportunity. But don’t try to be the lawyers you watch. Try to see what works for them and consider how something similar might work for you. I’ll never have the coldly logical approach of Hank Hankins or the elegance of Butch Williams. I won’t have the self-effacing nature of Harvey Cosper or the quick wit of Sammy Thompson. And fortunately, I will not have the pugnacity of Gary Parsons! But absorb little bits of all the trial lawyers you see and use that to your advantage. That is the real gift, the real secret to being a good trial lawyer.


    David N. Allen is a past president of NCADA and 2020 Recipient of the Excellence in Trial Advocacy Award.

  • 29 Apr 2021 12:32 PM | Deleted user

    by Dan J. McLamb

    When you can count on one hand the number of years left before you become a 50-year lawyer, there is a lot to contemplate about what it means to be a defense lawyer.  My first impulse was to romanticize the entire experience. Then I thought, well, it actually has been pretty hard work. So for a more honest accounting, I tried to go back through what I have done over the years.

    Right out of law school I knew that I wanted to be in the courtroom, but it took me a while to realize that there were actually only a few ways to get there on a frequent basis - be a prosecutor, a public defender, or in a civil practice world, an insurance defense lawyer. As a result of good fortune as much as anything else, I landed at a defense firm led by a group of incredibly talented lawyers who, most importantly, practiced law at the highest level while never compromising ethical and professional standards. Like so many others, I benefit to this day from having crossed paths with so many outstanding defense lawyers who were committed to teaching young lawyers like me, by example and words, the “right way to practice law.” All of us who have been fortunate enough to thrive as defense lawyers shoulder the burden of mentoring those who will take our place by what we say and do. It is essential for the continued success of our specialty.

    In preparing to write this article, I looked back through old notes I have saved over the years in search for what I actually have said about what it means, or requires, to be a defense lawyer.  I stumbled across some notes I jotted down in July 2009 to lead a discussion at our firm retreat entitled “Ten Things to Remember.” While there is nothing earthshaking about these notes, they do capture many of my thoughts about important components of a successful defense practice.  They begin, however, with reference to an invaluable lesson I learned from my very first trial sometime in the late 1970’s.  Here are the bullet points

    Judge Braswell’s lesson.
    Judge Braswell was a respected Superior Court Judge from Cumberland County. He presided over my first jury trial. I struggled mightily to ask non-leading questions throughout the trial. At its conclusion, Judge Braswell asked me to approach the bench.  After all these years, I can still quote him, word for word: “Son, I noticed you had a little trouble with leading questions. The next time you get ready for trial, put together questions for direct examinations that all begin with the words who, what, when, where, or why. If you do that, you will never ask a leading question.” I have followed that advice for every trial for more than 40 years and have passed it along to dozens of young lawyers.

    Never hedge the truth.
    This note needs no explanation. As defense lawyers, we are frequently in court and see the same judges repeatedly. Judges talk to each other. Credibility is built one block at a time. In my view, credibility with the court and opposing counsel over the long-term means everything. One misrepresentation – even a small one – can tear down the blocks you have built and damage your credibility forever. There is no case or issue worth putting you or your firm’s credibility at risk.

    There is no substitution for preparation.
    This point should not surprise anyone. Some of us like to think we are good communicators and really effective with juries. The reality is that we begin the trial by having to defend a position. No matter how good we are on our feet, our clients prevail because we are driven to out-work the other team.

    Write succinctly.
    Judges and lawyers are busy. The more directly and succinctly we convey our thoughts, the more clearly they are understood.

    Respect your clients.
    Leslie Packer discussed this point in her article. Different clients have different goals.  Our job is to understand these goals and, as long as they are ethical and legal, endeavor  to achieve them. Successful practice as a defense lawyer really is pretty simple. It means understanding our client’s objectives; making a plan to accomplish those objectives; keeping the client advised of the plan; and following through with the plan. It is certainly our job to advocate what we believe is in the client’s best interest, but we do not get to make the final decision.

     Disparaging competition seldom works – Praise is better.
    We are fortunate to be defense lawyers in North Carolina. I have never practiced in another state, but I have to believe the teamwork and comradery among the North Carolina defense bar is unparalleled. Criticism of another team member rarely benefits the team as a whole, and it should be avoided.

    The Harry Weyher system.
    Harry Weyher was my father-in-law.  He practiced law in New York.  Before computers, he maintained a rolodex on his desk in which he kept detailed personal notes about all his clients and colleagues - their birthdays, interests, children’s names, etc. I have never perfected his system, but I have tried. Clients are more than bill-payers. They have families and concerns just like us. I have always believed that professional relationships are strengthened when personal relationships are strong and sincere.

    Remember it is a team.Most of us are pretty good at recognizing and thanking our mentors. For those of us lucky enough to be lead trial lawyers, however, it is equally important that we recognize  the younger lawyers, paralegals, and administrative assistants who surround and support us.  The truth of the matter for me, and I suspect I am not alone, is that I would be lost at sea without the capable, long-time support of those with whom I am fortunate enough to work. I think we as defense lawyers recognize the value of our teams.

    Do not put your head on the pillow without responding to every call and email.Our partner, Joe Yates, beat this drum daily. It’s a hard one, but he was right. If you want to be a successful defense lawyer, you cannot take any question or client for granted.

    Keep the North Carolina State Bar on speed dial.
    For those of us who handle defense work for insurance carriers, the tripartite relationship is always the elephant in the room. Representing the insured and insurer is easy - until it is not!  Conflicts are inevitable. We obviously have the North Carolina Rules of Professional Conduct and many State Bar ethics opinions for guidance, but I (particularly as I have gotten older) seem to confront ethical issues which are more gray than black and white. For years Alice Mine at the State Bar fielded my calls. Now it is Brian Oten (919-260-2650). To be the best defense lawyers we can be, we have to be certain we are ethically representing the interests of both our insured and insurer clients. The State Bar is there to help steer us safely to port. It has guided me more times than I can count.         

    I could list a hundred additional points that help define what it means and requires to be a successful defense lawyer. The important thing, however, is to be cognizant of fundamental principles that have served the profession well over the long-term and to work together to preserve and enhance the quality of our defense bar.


    Dan J. McLamb is the 2019 Recipient of the Excellence in Trial Advocacy Award.

  • 30 Mar 2021 10:07 AM | Deleted user

    by the Honorable Linda Stephens

    Twenty years ago, I became the first female president of the North Carolina Association of Defense Attorneys. Serving as president of this organization has been one of the crowning accomplishments and highest honors of my professional life. Getting there was a challenging, but also rewarding, journey. Then and now, I have found it fitting that I became the first female president in 2001, because, for so many years, the notion of a woman leading a group of civil defense lawyers was as alien an idea as the tale told by Arthur Clarke in 2001: A Space Odyssey. 

    I was in law school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill from 1976 until I graduated in May 1979. Women made up less than 20% of my class, and some male classmates believed, and sometimes outright expressed, that we were “tokens” taking up the space that should have been given to another of their kind. I wouldn’t call the environment hostile, but it definitely was not welcoming. In those days, few women went into careers as litigators. Most went into government service, still a noble calling. I became a law clerk at the Court of Appeals for a year and then served as a deputy commissioner for the Industrial Commission for four years. But, I wanted to try cases. I did not want to spend my career watching other lawyers, mostly white men, try cases. I got lucky. In August 1984, I left the Industrial Commission to go to work as the first female lawyer at Teague Campbell Dennis and Gorham in Raleigh. 

    Early on, I was required to apply for membership in the NCADA. I did. Not long after, I received my Certificate of Membership recognizing “him” as a “member in good standing.” I promptly sent the certificate back, telling then Executive Director Annette Boutwell that I was not a “him” and that I was sure she had inadvertently pulled my certificate out of the wrong stack. At that time, I had become the third female member of the Association, behind Beth Fleishman and Sheila Fellerath. Talk about trailblazers! Anyway, Annette let me know that it was not a mistake. The Association did not have any membership certificates for women. But, she was ordering some!

    I continued to call out the white male members of the Association. My firm always supported the annual meeting, and I attended my first one in 1985, when it was held at Hilton Head in April. The weather was unpredictable, frequently cold and rainy. But there we were. The CLE was as exceptional as it has always been. Back then, though, the speakers were all white men, who addressed the audience as “Gentlemen.” Troublemaker me, I raised my hand to say, “I’m not a gentleman!” And then I went up afterward to tell the particular speaker the same thing. 

    I railed against the fact that there were never any women speaking at the podium! Careful what you ask for. I think it was 1994, could be wrong about the date, I became the first female speaker at the annual meeting. My place on the program? Last on Saturday. But, it was a significant start. 

    I do not remember who asked me to be on the Board, but I gladly accepted, served my three years, and went away. Then, the call came. New president Jim Cooney wanted me to be secretary. I have never been fond of taking the minutes, but I jumped at the chance to be an officer of this Association. First woman officer. Pressure on. Did it. And I will forever be grateful to Cooney for recognizing and rewarding my fight for the women in this Association. I rose through “the ranks” after that to eventually become President. 

    Leslie Packer became the second female president of this Association. I was happier and prouder at her induction than my own. Then, Bonnie Refinski-Knight, followed by Tricia Shields, the first time the Association benefitted from two women in a row!  And then the first African-American woman, Day Matthews! And, coming up next, Sara Lincoln!

    I love Sara as if she were my daughter. I am so happy that she is going to be leading the NCADA for the next year. She will advance the cause and progress for women in the profession and, specifically, as civil defense lawyers. Can’t wait to celebrate with her!


    Hon. Linda Stephens is a past president and is the 2015 Recipient of the J. Robert Elster Award for Professional Excellence.

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