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A blog by members of the Wake County Bar Association/Tenth Judicial District Bar's Professionalism Committee members.


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Phyllis B. Pickett Receives 2019 Joseph Branch Professionalism Award

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, October 15, 2019
Updated: Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Maria M. Lynch, Lynch & Eatman LLP

The 2019 recipient of the Joseph Branch Professionalism Award is Phyllis B. Pickett. Phyllis is an outstanding lawyer, bar leader, community leader and occasional fountain pen surgeon. Phyllis started her legal career working for Legal Aid in southeastern and northeastern North Carolina. From Legal Aid she moved to Wake County and served as an assistant county attorney for four-and-a-half years. In 1991, Phyllis was recruited to join the staff of the General Assembly, in part because of her expertise in local government law and county issues. She has been a staff attorney at the General Assembly ever since. 

Phyllis serves as the principal legislative analyst and staff attorney for the Legislative Drafting Division. While her initial focus at the legislature was county law, today she primarily handles appropriations and information technology issues, as well as employment law. Employment law is the one constant throughout her legal career. As a legal services attorney she represented plaintiffs, as an assistant county attorney she represented the county as a defendant, and at the general assembly she drafts labor and employment laws. The Legislative Drafting Division is non-partisan, and as a staff attorney Phyllis deals with people from all walks of life with various political viewpoints. 

Phyllis is a double Tar Heel, having obtained her undergraduate degree in 1979 as a history major and James M. Johnson Scholar, then her law degree in 1982. Throughout her legal career, Phyllis has been involved with local, state and national bar associations. At our own Wake County and Tenth Judicial District Bars, Phyllis has served on the Leadership Development Committee, the Nominating Committee and the Grievance Committee. She also served as Secretary of the WCBA and Tenth for two years. 

Phyllis has also held a number of leadership positions at the North Carolina Bar Association.  She has Chaired the Endowment Committee, served on the Board of Governors, has Chaired the Membership Committee, the Administrative Law Section Counsel and served as Co-chair of the Committee on Women in the Profession. Phyllis has also been heavily involved with the American Bar Association where she has chaired the Judicial Division Lawyers Conference and the Perceptions of Justice Steering Committee.  She served on the Standing Committee on the Law Library of Congress and served as Section Advisor to the Uniform Law Commission Drafting Committee on the Uniform Electronic Legal Material Act. 

When asked what she does for fun, Phyllis says “I’m a baby boomer… work is my fun.” She does, however, enjoy traveling with her spouse LaVie. They are active at St. Ambrose Episcopal Church, and Phyllis served four years as a delegate to the annual convention of the North Carolina Episcopal Diocese. 

In writing this piece, I learned a lot about her main hobby. She collects and uses mostly modern and some vintage fountain pens. She is especially fond of Japanese and Italian brands, but apparently there is an emerging brand based here called Franklin-Christoph. She has visited their factory in Wake Forest. She also repairs pens, including performing delicate ink bladder “surgery.” The Triangle has a very active fountain pen community and hosts an annual pen meets in Durham and Raleigh.

Phyllis believes one of the most important aspects of professionalism is mentoring, both being a mentor to others and having mentors your entire career. She cites among others who have been mentors to her, Lisbon Berry and Jim Wall, two civil rights lawyers she admired for their grit. In her mid-career, former Wake County Attorney Mike Ferrell and North Carolina Supreme Court Justice Pat Timmons-Goodson gave her insight and calm in framing issues. Gerry Cohen at the Legislature was always a willing teacher. 

One aspect she loves about the law is working closely with diverse lawyers; not just in terms of gender, race, ethnicity and political views, but also generational diversity. Phyllis says she learns so much from her younger colleagues. They have affected her worldview and her perspective on issues and problems, but I believe she has had an even more profound effect on theirs. 

Tags:  Branch Award  Professionalism 

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Posted By Colleen Glatfelter, Thursday, April 27, 2017

By Mark Finkelstein, Smith Moore Leatherwood LLP


          The two largest changes in civil litigation over my 30 years of practice are the advent of mediation and the proliferation of electronic communications.  Much has been written about professionalism and E-communication.  Not enough has been written about professionalism and mediation. 


            Lawyer mediators must comply with both the Rules of Professional Conduct and the Standards of Professional Conduct for Mediators.  Advisory opinions are issued under both of these sets of rules.  Even if you are not a mediator, your duty of competence as a lawyer requires you to have some familiarity with the rules that apply to mediators if you mediate. 


            The rules applicable to mediators can be found here:

The advisory opinions regarding these rules can be found here: 


            You may be surprised to learn that:


            1.         A mediator may not distribute something as small as “mouse pads with contact information thereon to existing or potential clients” with the hope of receiving referrals.  Advisory Opinion 33 (2016).


            2.         In a case where one party is represented by counsel and one is pro se, the mediator may not prepare the mediated settlement agreement for the parties to sign.  Under those circumstances, when the mediated settlement agreement is prepared by the represented party, the mediator must raise questions with the parties if the agreement does not include terms discussed in the presence of the mediator or are misstated.  Advisory Opinion 31 (2015).


            3.         Mediators are required to define the separate and distinct concepts of confidentiality (typically, unless agreed to otherwise, a party to a mediation can issue a press release describing the events of the mediation because a mediation is not confidential) and inadmissibility (typically statements made during mediation are not admissible at trial).  Advisory Opinion 29 (2014).


            Given that a significant percentage of cases are mediated prior to disposition, lawyer-advocates must be competent at mediation.  Giving due consideration to a strategic approach to mediation and properly preparing for mediation are the keys to mediation competence.   


Prior to mediation, you should discuss with your client the mediation process itself, possible opening settlement offers, information you want to seek during mediation, your client’s best alternative to a negotiated agreement, and your client’s role at mediation.  Your opening statement should also be considered.  Sometimes the best approach at mediation is to forgo an opening statement.  Sometimes the best approach is to bring an expert to the mediation and have him narrate a detailed PowerPoint presentation.  Between these two extremes in opening statement presentations are many other reasonable options.  Even though there are many potential right answers, due consideration to the proper approach to each aspect of mediation is always important.




 *Any opinion or views expressed in blogs posted on this site are those of the identified author and not the Committee as a whole

Tags:  Advocacy  Competence  Ethics  Law  Lawyer  Mediation  Professionalism 

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