New Service Could Wipe Clean Criminal Records

It’s Mecklenburg County’s new “Expunction Line.” That’s a funny way of saying this: If you qualify, you now have the chance to scrub off at least part or maybe all of your criminal record.

For the first time, the county’s SelfServe Center has joined with the Charlotte School of Law to offer an upcoming clinic to have certain criminal charges removed once and for all.

Which brings us back to the “Expunction Line.” Call it this week if you want to participate. A voicemail will ask you to spell your first and last names, and also to leave a birthdate and a return phone number. The county will then do a criminal background check to determine eligibility.

Those who qualify will be invited to the upcoming clinic, which takes people through the process at no cost. Time and location are on a need-to-know basis since walk-ins are not invited. Eligible county residents may also be asked to begin the process by visiting the SelfServe Center in Suite 3350 of the courthouse, 832 E. Fourth St.

What if I don’t qualify?
You’ll still be called back and told when your eligibility begins. If you’re not eligible for the service at any time, you’ll get a call to discuss other options.

What kind of records can be wiped clean?
State law is pretty specific. Three types of crime generally qualify for removal.

▪ A first-time, nonviolent offense committed more than 15 years ago.

▪ A first-time offense committed between the ages of 18 and 22.

▪ A charge that was dismissed or found “not guilty.”

Why should I bother?
Old criminal charges have a way of indefinitely popping up on background checks. That can cost you a job or a lease on an apartment, among other everyday essentials. Once expungement takes place, it’s as if the crime never existed.

“It’s a service we felt we needed,” said Charles Keller, the courthouse’s community access and outreach coordinator.

State Senator Speaks at Charlotte Law Paralegal Certificate Program Graduation

North Carolina State Senator, Jeff Jackson, delivered the keynote address at the graduation ceremonies for the Paralegal Certificate Program on June 9th.

The Charlotte Law Paralegal Certificate Program offers a six-month curriculum that includes development of legal research and writing skills, access to the law school’s on-campus library, career counseling, internships and networking opportunities for students. The program was designated as a Qualified Paralegal Studies Program by the North Carolina State Bar in 2012.

One of the program graduates, Johnell A. Holman, noted, “It has always been a lifelong dream of mine, becoming a lawyer, and for me, this was a necessary first step. The learning environment and wonderful scheduling of class here has allowed me to begin a path that will be full of successful achievements. CSL has given me both hope and inspiration.”

The Fall 2015 session of the Paralegal Certificate Program will begin on July 27th.

ALR Student’s Corner: Department of Commerce: Minority Business Development Agency

The Commerce Department’s mission is to make American businesses more innovative at home and more competitive abroad. Responsible for everything from weather forecasts to patent protection, the following twelve departments of the Commerce Department impact the everyday lives of all Americans:

  • Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA)
  • Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS)
  • U.S. Census Bureau
  • Economic Development Administration (EDA)
  • Economics and Statistics Administration (ESA)
  • International Trade Administration (ITA)
  • Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA)
  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
  • National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA)
  • National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)
  • National Technical Information Service (NTIS)
  • U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO)

The Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) embodies the Commerce Department’s goal of maximizing job creation and global competitiveness by creating a new generation of minority-owned businesses that generate $100 million in annual revenues. The MBDA provides services in five major areas globally through its business center:

Global Business Development: Focus is on the importance of minority-owned businesses as a key component of U.S. international trade. Minority-owned firms have the most favorable export attributes of any sector of the U.S. economy and represent the future of export growth.

Access to Capital and Financial Management: MBDA’s business advisors offer extensive experience in commercial lending and banking, financial, credit and risk analysis and general finance counseling.

Access to Contracts: MBDA business development specialists provide procurement assistance to help minority-owned firms do business with the federal, state, and local governments as well as private corporations. These specialists provide identification of procurement opportunities, solicitation analysis, bid and proposal preparation, research contract award histories, post-award contract administration, and certifications assistance.

Access to Markets: MBDA services in this area include government procurement assistance, private sector contract identification, and specialized certification assistance, including 8(a), MBE, and Small Disadvantaged Business. Assistance with market research, market plan development, and marketing communications is provided, as well.

Strategic Business Consulting: This service area includes strategic and business planning, staffing, organization and structure, policies and procedures, and general business consulting.

Most recently, MBDA featured a segment on how minority manufacturing businesses have strengthened the “Made in America” brand. This year, MBDA recognized a couple of businesses for outstanding manufacturing impact and achieving significant success in employing new and innovative techniques that led to a significant increase in market share, job growth, and customer satisfaction. “Manufacturing creates good jobs and has the largest multiplier effect of any part of the economy,” said Alejandra Y. Castillo, MBDA National Director. “We are very proud of the tremendous achievements of minority businesses in the manufacturing industry that help grow the national economy through innovation, job and wealth creation.”

MBDA’s website is user friendly and provides an unlimited amount of information and resources, including a repository of publications for public research and review, dedicated to minority business developments.

Compliance Officer: A Career in Demand

Compliance has become one of the biggest buzzwords in corporate America and one of the hottest areas of the job market. In some sectors, new compliance jobs are growing at rates that are more than double the growth rate for non-compliance jobs. Many of those jobs command six figure salaries and there is a big demand at every experience level. Jack Kelly of Compliance Search Group said, “Hiring has gone up across the board … from senior level to junior level and everything in between.”[1]

WHAT THEY DO

Corporate compliance officers have a broad array of duties. The 2014 Compliance Trends Survey, conducted by Compliance Week and Deloitte, identified four core responsibilities that over 80% of survey respondents agreed were primary areas of focus[2]:

Compliance with domestic regulation
Compliance training
Code of conduct
Complaints and whistleblower hotlines
With these primary concerns in mind, it is easy to see that you don’t have to be a compliance specialist to benefit from increasing your compliance knowledge. Businesses expect many non-compliance professionals to be more knowledgeable in this area. Human resource professionals, accountants, paralegals, and many other professionals have a growing need to understand the complexities of compliance requirements that apply to their work and their organization. The big key in compliance today is being proactive in order to prevent problems.

WHERE THEY WORK

One of the biggest growth sectors for compliance professionals is financial services. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics figures for compliance officer jobs in finance and insurance show projected growth of 11.1%[3] through 2022. That’s more than double the projected growth rate for non-compliance jobs in this sector. Many other industries are also hiring a multitude of compliance professionals.

Accounting, technology and healthcare companies have a huge and growing need for compliance professionals. Industry leaders like PWC, Deloitte, Oracle Corporation, and Healthcare Corporation of America (HCA) are just a few that top the list of companies with major hiring initiatives.

HOW MUCH THEY MAKE

Salaries for compliance professionals are strong and growing. According to the staffing firm Robert Half, even without a law degree, salaries for compliance analysts at midsized companies are between $67,500 and $89,000.[4] According to CareerBuilder, within accounting and finance, the median salary for regulatory compliance professionals is $93,550[5].

While a law degree is not required, there is huge demand for attorneys with compliance knowledge. “Compliance has opened up a whole new area for law school grads,” says Jason Wachtel, Managing Partner of executive search firm JW Michaels & Co. Chief Compliance Officers at large companies earn annual salaries in the range of $141,750 to $197,000[6]. At large multinational companies, the salaries are even higher.

HOW TO PREPARE YOURSELF

Whether you want to become a compliance professional or you want to enhance your compliance knowledge to be more effective and marketable in another profession, the best way to gain that knowledge is through a compliance program like the one offered though the Charlotte School of Law. This will ensure that you get the right information about the most relevant compliance issues that are up-to-date, which is extremely important in the rapidly changing environment businesses operate in today.

Charlotte School of Law: Unlocking Human Potential

Recently, we had one of our student workers scan through previous blog content and choose a few of the ones she found most helpful as a current Charlotte Law student. We’ll be re-posting this content throughout the summer so it’s readily available to all of our incoming and returning students for Fall of 2015. This post originally ran in March of 2015.

The Charlotte School of Law has an overriding purpose: to unlock human potential. Our immediate task is to educate students, in particular so that they can succeed in law school, on the bar examination, and in their chosen careers. But we carry out our educational activities with an eye toward the larger purpose. We identify students who have the potential to learn and succeed more broadly and we tailor comprehensive programs to build on that potential. Thus, we have a growing Honors Program; a large Student Success department; wellness counselors; programs to engender grit, self-awareness, and professionalism; and so much more.

I came to Charlotte as Dean two years ago, in large part because of the commitment to unlocking human potential. (This is a very fundamental commitment; we are also committed to unlocking the potential of our faculty and staff.) I also came for our commitment to the unceasing improvement of our programs, services, and outcomes. No person is or ever will be perfect, but every person can become better and better in personal and professional ways. In the same way, no organization is or ever will be perfect. But the more the organization understands the need for constant improvement, the better it can be in providing value, satisfaction, and success for the persons it serves.

Continuous improvement in law schools is more important today than it was even ten years ago. It is also more difficult. Legal education has long been premised on assumptions about what colleges teach and assess in the areas of writing, critical reading, and personal management; on what students teach themselves; on the nature of jobs in the legal services field; on what employers look for in graduates; and on what bar examiners test. Many of these assumptions are no longer wholly valid. Other changes in the environment are equally dramatic. Nationally, the number of applicants to law school has been declining for five years. Nationally, first-time bar passage rates have been declining (for reasons that are not clear). And both law and legal education are becoming increasingly internationalized, with respect to students, programs, and services. For law schools, adaptation and improvement is essential.

The Charlotte School of Law is continually addressing these challenges and is ever alert to opportunities. For example, we systematically concern ourselves with writing skills. We are currently developing methods for rigorously assessing writing competency and potential for improvement in applicants; expanding our introductory writing program; increasing the ongoing assessment of writing in doctrinal courses; and proving added support for student who need enrichment. Similarly, we are in the midst of a comprehensive project to strengthen the development of competencies required for success on the bar examination. This project reaches from the beginning of the first year through the day of the bar examination itself. We are expanding our opportunities for pro bono service, both in Charlotte and around the world. For example, this month we are launching a new project of pro bono service for our students in Haiti. We are also alert to changes in the legal services field. For example, this summer we are starting a new program in corporate compliance that will provide both knowledge and competitive advantage in this rapidly growing field. And there is much, much more.

I have been Dean of three law schools. One of my greatest sources of satisfaction is improving the school and its services, and enabling faculty and staff to make contributions that are both valuable to students and meaningful to the faculty and staff members themselves. The Charlotte School of Law is an extraordinary place for students to learn and grow, and to position themselves to navigate change. What makes it such an extraordinary place is not only the deep and pervasive commitment to unlocking potential, but also the deep and pervasive commitment to doing a continually better job of providing programs, services, and resources that enable that potential to be unlocked.

ALR Student’s Corner: And Justice for All – A Review

We often become too familiar with our jobs. That along with losing passion, fatigue, personal issues, and conflicts may cause us to bring down our standards. Laws form the boundaries of our society, structure our government, maintain order, guarantee our rights and the freedom of private enterprise, regulate complicated affairs, and punish wrongdoers. However, what drove most of us, or at least many, to pursue a career in law is the idea of justice. Justice can be defined as the truth pursuant to the evidence, what is right under the totality of the circumstance, or what the law interprets as permissible based on the facts presented.

In “And Justice for All,” Al Pacino plays defense attorney, Arthur Kirkland, who has a reputation for having a high moral standard. He is also known to have bad blood with an authoritative judge named Henry Fleming, who is accused of raping and assaulting a woman. Unfortunately, Kirkland is forced to represent Fleming because the judge threatened to disbar him for breaking client confidentiality unless he takes the case. Because he is tied up with the big case, Kirkland asks a friend to fill in for him on a case involving a gullible transgender defendant who is accused of robbery and is petrified of how other inmates will treat him if he is convicted.

The lines quoted at the beginning of this article are from the scene where Kirkland finds out that his friend has neglected to request probation before judgment and the transgender defendant has committed suicide after being sentence to serve time. Not knowing all the facts, the friend yells, in response, that it’s just nickel and dime.

Defense attorneys make deals with prosecutors to request a favor in return, prosecutors want to be a star by convicting a judge, defense attorneys and prosecutors both fabricate or hide evidence to win the case. Kirkland says in his opening statement that the intention of justice is that the guilty people are proven guilty and the innocent are freed. He adds that the only problem is that both sides would like to win regardless of the truth, regardless of who’s guilty, because winning is everything.

The adversarial system has its merits. The procedural laws have its merits. If anyone’s been in an actual hearing or a trial in session, they would realize that nothing would be done without the strict rules governing the process, and the truth is often revealed during the cross-examinations and the presentation of evidence by the adverse parties. The courts also rule not only based on the law but on equity. The law is not only prescribed and remedies are ordered according to what is reasonable.

Then what is it that makes people fear the law yet not respect lawyers? Why do we entrust so much power to a profession that is not so trusted? Is it because lawyers are not honest?

Sam, Kirkland’s grandfather asks him if he’s a good, honest lawyer. Kirkland answers with a sarcastic tone that being honest doesn’t have much to do with being a lawyer. Sam replies back, “if you’re not honest, you’ve got nothing.” However, if all attorneys are completely honest, many defendants will not get a fair trial. We don’t want that. The issues and disputes that end up in court may be extremely complicated and confusing. Anyone can be the defendant – whether they meant to or not, and more importantly, judges will be more prone to be wrong if they only hear one side of the story. In that sense, although TV ads make you feel otherwise jaded, thank God there are plenty of defense attorneys.

If it’s not the law, and if it’s not the lawyers, why is it so difficult to achieve justice? Is the blindfold on lady justice getting in the way when she reads the scale and strikes that sword? I believe that regardless of how we might feel about the justice system we are on the right track and it’s a process in which we will ultimately build the most ideal system to achieve justice. Developments in technology, open public discussions, political debates, and new laws protecting individual rights are all examples of how we can and are advancing to construct a better justice system.

In “And Justice for All,” the defendant judge passes the polygraph although he later admits that he raped and assaulted the victim. Today’s DNA testing technology, and more advanced polygraph tests could have helped the prosecutor in cases like the one in “And Justice for All” where there were no witnesses other than the one planted by the defendant. Forensic use of DNA technology in criminal cases began in 1986, whereas the movie took place in 1979. North Carolina also permits the use of DNA evidence. As for polygraph (aka lie detector) test results, in many states including New York, Texas, Illinois, and the District of Columbia they are generally inadmissible. Some states do recognize them as admissible evidence and some permit them only to support probable cause for warrants.

Although I’m not sure how the law was back then, now no one in a courtroom would be able to shout things out, make comments, laugh and whistle without being held in contempt.

Human history is not that lengthy. Yet even after including prehistoric times, humans have been on this earth for only about 30 seconds out of a day in Earth’s time. Although we have achieved so much during the past few millennia, we are only discovering what we can do with what we have, not only with tangible materials but also with the products of our minds. As one of the greatest inventions and tools that was essential to our development and prosperity, the law and the justice system have evolved greatly, and will continue to change to one day achieve justice for all.

Charlotte School of Law Hosts Inaugural Queen City Mock Trial Competition

Charlotte School of Law, along with the University of North Carolina Charlotte hosted the inaugural Queen City Mock Trial Competition on Saturday, January 24, 2015.

The Competition consisted of over 60 undergraduate students divided into eight teams from Davidson College, Washington & Lee University, University of South Carolina, University of North Carolina Charlotte, and Wake Forest University. The format of the competition was four rounds where teams tried a very complex wrongful death action.

Among the awards were five top witness awards, five top attorney awards and a top team award. Washington and Lee won the top team with a perfect score, followed by second place Washington and Lee team and USC placed third. The top witness was Jordan La Pointe from Washington & Lee and the top attorney award went to Nicole Provax, a sophomore from USC. In addition to a certificate, Nicole has won a $20,000 Charlotte School of Law scholarship.

According to Mindy Sanchez, assistant professor at Charlotte School of Law, “We were very pleased with our first competition and credit the interdependencies within the CSL faculty, staff, and students as well as UNCC for a successful event.”

Staff Spotlight: Aithyni Rucker – Does “Cultural Fit” have a Negative Impact on Diversity & Inclusion?

In this day and age, company culture is of extreme importance to both corporations and employees. Corporations, law firms, and organizations go through great lengths to ensure that the personalities, work styles, and ideologies of new hires and current employees, fit defined cultural models. These models touch every facet of business, from hiring to retention practices, including evaluations of employee performance and productivity, communications, and how employees are treated.

By definition, diversity means difference and difference causes conflict. Diversity includes the acceptance and respect of individual differences and backgrounds. This means that hiring managers and partners must understand the fundamental notion that every individual is unique and differences should be celebrated and recognized. By avoiding conflict, is hiring for “cultural fit and chemistry” causing companies to create homogeneous teams with diminishing diversity? In global community, where a good number of C-suite executives, law-firm partners, and hiring decision makers are likely to be white males, this begs the question, are we unconsciously sacrificing diversity and inclusion to build corporate and law firm culture?

Removing Bias from Cultural Fit Evaluations

When we seek to have everyone “fit in” we lose the diversity of thought, background, and opinion. To combat this, companies must take active steps to avoid falling into a virtual black hole of employee “similarity”. Hiring and retaining employees who are “similar” opens the door for bias to rear its ugly head. If culture fit is code language for “looks like us, acts like us, and talks like us,” this is an uncomfortable reality that firms and corporations must face. The message of similarity sends a message to current and prospective employees that they are not welcomed and may not “fit in,” essentially depriving the organization from the benefits of a diverse team.

Whether you call it unconscious, implicit, or unintentional bias, it’s all prejudice just the same. In reality, perceptions of differences may not be based in reality. Unconscious bias stems from how you were raised and how you see the world without realizing it. Biases are born from gut reactions. These biases, prejudices, and perceived differences create a negative impact when placed in motion when hiring and evaluating employees. A true effective culture depends on how differences and perceptions of differences are managed.

Appropriate training and an understanding of biases can aid in hiring and employee retention. However, failure to ensure the selection process is based on standard criteria, with trained interviewers, can result in unintentional bias in the spirit of looking for someone who’s a perceived ‘‘good fit.’’ Many cultural evaluations have little to do with potential job performance. Popular interview questions like “What is the last book you read for fun?” and “What types of movies do you like?” can have a reverse effect and turn exclusionary. Additionally, many organizations make the mistake of assuming that those tasked with selecting new hires, during peer evaluations, are equipped to do so fairly because they are nice people or good workers. However, instead of serving as a litmus test of whether or not the candidate would work well and be comfortable in the company, these interviews run the risk of excluding candidates because many employees still work from their own biased perceptions of other groups.

Steps to Merge Culture Fit Evaluations with Diversity and Inclusion

Diversity and inclusion and cultural fit do not have to be mutually exclusive, it is up to managers and organizational leaders to attack levels of bias within institutions while hiring for and embracing the traits needed for success in a position.

Companies should hire employees committed to organizational purpose, values, and vision, while seeking to diversify. Instead of hiring for “like,” differences should still be sought out, celebrated, and cultivated within a team environment.
Get deep with bias training – Companies and firms should include unconscious bias training within employee onboarding, processes, and human resource and management training.
Extend the search process beyond referrals – 50-70% of all hires stem from personal referrals, and many employees hold an implicit bias in favor of their own race and gender, ensuring that a culture of similarity continues to grow.
Push for Holistic Fit – Companies should stress to employees that “hiring for being like me” is not an organizational goal. Instead encourage managers and leaders to find employees who embody a holistic fit with the position, work environment, management, and business.