MIP’s Diverse Perspectives: Clayton Morgan


Clayton, a Black man, wears a white shirt, red tie and navy suit. He is smiling and standing with a wood-paneled wall behind him.By Clayton Morgan

MIP’s Diverse Perspectives is a monthly blog feature to spotlight a member from North Carolina’s diverse community of attorneys and legal professionals. Each month, an MIP member shares their personal perspective through a brief set of interview questions.

This month’s perspective is courtesy of Clayton Morgan.

What law school did you attend, and when did you graduate?

I attended the Wake Forest University School of Law and the Wake Forest Graduate School of Management, and graduated with my joint JD/MBA degree in May, 1991.

What inspired or prompted you to become an attorney?

As a child, I always wanted to be an attorney. While my siblings were outside playing, I was that child who preferred to stay in the house and read a book or write creatively; and I absolutely loved to watch the CBS Evening News every night with Walter Cronkite. Thinking back, there were three historical events which helped solidify my interest in the law: the Civil Rights Movement, Vietnam and the Watergate hearings. Through the evening news, I learned a lot about all three and how attorneys were involved. Although I didn’t understand all of the intricacies as a child, I was glued to the television every night and asked my parents a lot of questions. In a nutshell, I was just intrigued about things and had a yearning to just learn as much as possible. Prior to law school, my only direct experience with a lawyer came when I was a child and tagged along with my uncle to traffic court. He was an out-of-town long-distance truck driver from the northeastern part of the country but had grazed a telephone pole while backing into a tight parking spot while making a delivery. He felt he had a legitimate defense and wanted to fight the charge. Although I was a young kid, I distinctly remember his counsel being ill-prepared, nonchalant about the case and showing no passion whatsoever. My uncle never stood a chance. He lost his case. That experience never left me; because even as a child, I realized my uncle did not receive anything close to good representation.

Please describe a barrier or obstacle you have overcome in your professional career.

While there have certainly been instances in my life where I felt that my path has been made more difficult for one reason or another, I was raised to never look at those as obstacles to my success – just informative data points along my specific journey. So, as a first-generation college graduate (and raised in a household where my parents instilled within me hard work, grit and appropriate self-confidence), I knew what was at stake if I allowed any barrier or obstacle to derail my career aspirations. So, whether the barrier was from an individual or was more institutionalized, I viewed it as surmountable and simply pushed forward. There were simply way too many people who looked like me who literally laid down their lives so that I could have certain educational, employment and societal opportunities during my lifetime. I couldn’t let them down by allowing myself to get distracted/sidetracked by barriers which sought to do just that.

What message of encouragement do you have for others who may have experienced similar challenges or adversity as an attorney historically underrepresented in the legal profession?

I would say that having an honest and complete understanding of your strengths, weaknesses and life/professional goals is the first step in determining your next steps. As you respond to that adversity or to any of those life challenges, at all times maintain your professionalism – because you may not get a “do-over.” Also, take the pressure off of yourself by trusting in who you are and by just being yourself. You’ll be amazed at the result.

What one piece of advice, guidance, or wisdom would you give to new North Carolina lawyers?

Having been at this for over 30 years now, I chuckle at how I used to think that certain short-term experiences would last forever. They don’t. As you go through adversity or as things don’t unfold in your career as you may have planned, don’t despair. You are just building the foundation and putting the experiential building blocks in place for your longer-term benefit. Signing up for a legal career is a lifetime commitment and therefore requires staying power. One way to achieve that staying power is through knowing who you are, what you are made of and why you chose this noble profession. Life’s experiences have a way of bringing all three of those out of you.  It’s then up to you to embrace those moments and turn them into your personal/unique definition of what “success” means to you in our legal profession.

Clayton Morgan currently serves as President of the North Carolina Bar Association and North Carolina Bar Foundation. Morgan is also an Associate General Counsel at Duke Energy. He has been with Duke Energy and its predecessors (Carolina Power & Light Company and Progress Energy) since 1996.

Morgan graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1987 with a Bachelor of Science degree in radiologic science. He completed the joint JD/MBA program at Wake Forest University in 1991, earning the Master of Business Administration (MBA) from the Babcock Graduate School of Management and the Juris Doctor from Wake Forest University School of Law.

From 2014-2021, Morgan served on the Legal Aid of North Carolina Board of Directors, where he served as Chairman of the Board of Directors from 2019-2021. He is the past chair of the NCBA’s and NCBF’s Audit & Finance Committee. He is a past chair of the NCBA’s Corporate Counsel Section, past chair of the NCBA’s Nominating Committee, past co-chair of the NCBA’s Awards and Recognitions Committee, and past co-chair of the NCBA’s Minorities in the Profession Committee. He has been a member of the NCBA for over 30 years, and in 2021 was honored with the Corporate Counsel Section’s Corporate Counselor Award. In addition, Clayton has been a member of the NCBA’s Talent Development Committee, the Membership Value Task Force, the Joint Diversity Task Force, the Succession Planning Committee and the Endowment Committee.

Morgan served from 2011-14 on the NCBA Board of Governors and the North Carolina Bar Foundation Board of Directors.