A Message From the Chair

By Jenna Fruechtenicht Butler

As I look out the window from my home office, the waters on Masonboro Sound are soothingly calm. There is no hint of the worldwide pandemic raging around us, but then I think back to the email I received last Friday from the wife of a client I had last seen at the end of February. Her life has been turned upside down by her husband’s untimely passing from COVID-19. It’s a lot to digest, and as lawyers, we are dealing with our own situations as well as those of our clients.

Yesterday, I participated in a zoom call with NCBA President, LeAnn Nease Brown, NCBA Executive Director, Jason Hensley, and other bar leaders and section chairs. Our discussion centered on what the NCBA is and can be doing right now for you, its members. Toward that end, I encourage you to visit the NCBA website if you are in need of any COVID-19 resources or updates. The bar is doing an excellent job of staying on top of things, and there is a link that takes you to a lot of useful information.

Many of us in this section are litigators and may be finding our practice slowing down a bit as a result of court closures, extensions of time, travel restrictions, and other causes for delay. If you find yourself with a little more time on your hands than usual, the bar is in need of attorney volunteers to answer questions from the public. The NC Bar Foundation is taking questions through North Carolina Free Legal Answers. There is a link at the top of the website for attorneys to register to answer questions. They need all the help they can get if you have the time.

Another option if you are looking to make use of some extra time is to consider presenting an online CLE. All CLE for the foreseeable future will be on demand online programming (and remember you can now earn all of your annual CLE online). The bar is interested in providing multiple options for those looking to fulfill their CLE requirements while things are at somewhat of a slower pace, so if you have an idea for a topic that you feel would be of interest to our section or a larger audience and you are willing to present it, the bar would love to hear from you. Please contact anyone in the CLE department and they are ready to assist (Brittany Meeks; Kate Leahy; Coleta Bell). If you have listened to the latest free offering from the bar through its monthly expert series, you will see that you can present for as little as 45 minutes from your own home.

In closing, it goes without saying that this is not quite how I expected my year as chair of this section to come to an end. I was planning to try to coerce all of you to come to Wilmington in May for an extraordinary mini-CLE and a fun time of fellowship near the sand and surf. Those plans have been quashed, but they really are nothing in the scheme of things. The larger picture is that we are operating in an extremely difficult time, and I extend my sincere wishes that everyone stays healthy and safe. Our families, friends and clients look to us as leaders when things get tough, but sometimes the leaders need help too. So if you find yourself with a question or a need, I encourage you not to hesitate to reach out to a colleague, a member of this section, or the NCBA. We are all in this together, and your colleagues and your bar are ready to assist.

Hang in there. We can get through this, particularly if we work together.