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President's Column

Brian O. Beverly

WCBA and Tenth J.D. Bar  




             I am blessed to have clients that are multi-national corporations.  Most of them have in-house legal departments managing nearly all of their litigation.  It is not unusual for me to receive a call with a new assignment where my client was served weeks ago with the summons and complaint, and very often with onerous discovery requests as well.  In the throes of litigation, how many times have you found that the discovery responses you planned to start working on last week fell to the bottom of the to-do list, and you’ve already burned your court-granted extension.  In those instances, I am both encouraged and relieved when I see that opposing counsel is a Wake County lawyer.  In nearly every instance in which these circumstances have presented themselves, I have been able to pick up the phone and call opposing counsel, explain the situation and ask for some additional time to meet the impending deadline.  Sometimes I happen to know the lawyer on the other side and the conversation begins with a discussion about how the family is doing or where the oldest is thinking about going to college.  In other cases where I may not know the attorney, more likely than not I have had positive dealings with one of his or her partners which helps to bridge the gap.  Regardless of the nature of the favor needed, I harbor optimism that the phone call will probably lead to agreement on the request without hesitation – and frequently an even more generous concession than I requested.


            That’s the practice of law in Wake County in my experience.  I hope that experience holds true for you, and even more importantly for the many young lawyers who have joined our noble profession here in the Tenth Judicial District.  To me, one of the most pronounced provisions within the Rules of Professional Conduct is found in the commentary to Rule 1.3 regarding "Diligence.”  Comment 1 begins by emboldening the lawyer to "pursue a matter on behalf of a client despite opposition, obstruction or personal inconvenience to the lawyer, and take whatever lawful and ethical measures are required to vindicate a client’s cause or endeavor.”  However, the comment goes on to temper this powerful charge by noting that "[a] lawyer is not bound, however, to press for every advantage that might be realized for a client.  … The lawyer’s duty to act with reasonable diligence does not require the use of offensive tactics or preclude the treating of all persons involved in the legal process with courtesy and respect.”  Comment 3 speaks to procrastination, but provides that "[a] lawyer’s duty to act with reasonable promptness, however, does not preclude the lawyer from agreeing to a reasonable request for a postponement that will not prejudice the lawyer’s client.”  I have tried to exercise that discretion through the years in a manner that befits the "noble” nature of our profession, and it is clear to me that the many Wake County lawyers with whom I have dealt over the years have done the same. 


It is also important that I point out the foundation for this perspective.  I did not develop the tendency toward courtesy and congeniality on my own.  It was instilled in me by the lawyers who trained me up as a litigator.  I can’t remember who should receive attribution for this mantra, but a presenter at a CLE I attended years ago stated, "Never intentionally send another lawyer into harm’s way.”  That exhortation has always stuck with me and underpins my approach to the practice of law.  The seeds for the formation of my firm, Young Moore & Henderson, P.A., were originally planted when Charlie Young went to work with Carroll Weathers in 1936.  Carroll Weathers went on to become Dean of the law school at Wake Forest.  I have heard many stories about both of them over the years, but several resonate with me in particular.  One noteworthy anecdote that fits with this discussion is Dean Weathers’ approach to ethics.  The North Carolina Rules of Court contain the Rules of Professional Conduct applicable to the practice. The rules promulgated in the 2016 version comprise 70 pages within the publication.  However, Dean Weathers was astute enough to boil all of that material down to a single sentence.  He was reportedly fond of saying "if you have to ask whether something is appropriate or ethical, you already know the answer.”


            I hope we can all draw inspiration from the insightful words of Dean Weathers.  We should never lose sight of the fact that "doing a solid” for another lawyer doesn’t necessarily compromise our client’s interests, and just because the ethics rules might permit your taking a certain action, it doesn’t automatically mean you should.  Especially not here in Wake County.