More Advice from “The Reference Desk”

“The Reference Desk” is a regular column featured in the AALL Spectrum.  The column below originally appeared in the May 2015 issue and is reprinted here with permission.

Q: I’m a director at a law school library, and I’ve heard through the grapevine that one of my staff members may be in the process of transitioning. I don’t know this person very well, but, even so, I know that I can’t question this individual directly. Not only is it none of my business at the moment, but I’m not sure what I can do. I anticipate, down the line, that this person may approach me and let me know (his/her) choices. I want to eliminate as much awkwardness as possible for everyone, including myself, and would like to know what kind of training or assistance I should provide.

A: You’re correct in that you can’t do or say anything at the moment and that you need to be cautious in your anticipation of any changes. If what you anticipate occurs, it will be your human resources department that will need to take the lead. There are confidentiality issues involved here, as well as potential changes to insurance documents and updates to business systems, such as email addresses. I am sure that your H.R. department will involve you to the appropriate degree when the need arises. However, it may not be too soon to focus training initiatives on how to ensure that your work culture is one of respect, inclusion, safety, and compliance. Many schools are conducting training workshops and informational sessions on The Gay Alliance’s SafeZone Program, which was created to develop and maintain environments in workplaces, schools, and other social settings that are culturally competent and supportive to LGBTQ populations. I’ve asked Joshua Burford, assistant director for sexual and gender diversity at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte, to share his insights. Josh has more than 15 years of experience working with the LGBTQ populations in the south and also has his MLIS. I was privileged to attend one of Josh’s presentations on the SafeZone Program.

Josh has shared the following:

“The support of our trans colleagues is an important part of the 21st century workplace.  Too often, cisgender people (non-trans-identified people) feel that they will make “mistakes” with names and pronouns, and, because of this, they have a tendency to ignore the challenges faced by the trans people sharing their spaces. We never want to render trans people silent simply out of fear or lack of knowledge. It is important for cisgender people to understand the privileges that they themselves experience every day. Once cisgender people can understand how freely they are allowed to move through their world, it will help them understand the challenges trans people face every day.

“The best way to support your trans-identified colleagues in the workplace is to take a twofold approach to making your environment as affirming as possible.

“Part one is a wholesale review of all your procedures, processes, and physical spaces in your workplace. This can mean checking your forms, applications, and online language to make sure that you have spaces for individuals to identify as transgender. If you are forcing people to choose from lists that only have “male” or “female” options, then you are limiting the ways that individuals can identify. Substituting a fillable blank space can work wonders.

“Any review of policy must include an update of your workplace’s nondiscrimination policy. If your workplace is truly a space where your trans colleagues can be their whole selves, then you need to have this reflected in a policy that includes ‘gender identity/expression’ and make certain that the policy is public. A review of your procedures and policies is tough work, but it shows a commitment to the well-being of everyone in your office.

“When you are reviewing your physical space, it is important to consider what your public space looks like. Do you offer gender-neutral or all-gender restrooms in your building? If the answer is no, what can you do to remedy this? Having a plan to address this can really show your trans colleagues that you are serious about their safety in your spaces.

“Part two is education. There are countless resources available online to get your staff up to speed on the nuances of trans identity. It is vital that your staff be up to speed about the use of correct pronouns and names for the individual(s) in your workplace who are transitioning. Asking the right questions is necessary. It’s important to remember that mistakes can be made, but if the process of education is ongoing, then they will happen less and less. Using the resources of the National Center for Transgender Equality and the Sylvia Rivera Law Project can help your workplace develop individual cultural competency around issues of trans identity and can be the springboard to the creation of a permanent SafeZone Program in your office. A SafeZone Program centralizes the available resources that are offered in your institution as well as provides current and future allies with the knowledge they need to be good trans allies.”

Thank you, Josh.  You’ve provided some thoughtful and sensitive insights. When employees feel included and respected, they are happier and more productive, and our workplace is all the better. I’ve always said that we librarians are a resource for each other. The AALL Social Responsibility Special Interest Section’s Standing Committee on Lesbian and Gay Issues embraces the diversity of sexual orientations and gender identities. I wish you the best and encourage you to contact this committee directly ( if you have any additional questions.

~Susan Catterall~

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Links We Love Weekly Round-Up — May 25, 2015


What Makes You Happy?

Everyone wants to be happy. But how, exactly, does one go about it? Here, psychologists, journalists, Buddhist monks and more gives answers that may surprise.

Where Is All of Your Time Going?

In the 1930 publication, Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren, John Maynard Keynes, the renowned economist, predicted that our millennial generation would be working “three-hour shifts” or a “fifteen-hour week.” Now that the future is here, it’s safe to say that we’re working longer and harder than ever to meet the competitive challenges of today’s workplace, and we can’t seem catch our breath during the frantic daily grind.

Starting a Modern Law Practice

Setting up a modern law firm doesn’t require a lot of money. But it helps to know what the essential ingredients of the modern firm are.

Stat of the Week: Law School Grades Do Not Correlate with Partnership Prospects

Earlier this week, Harvard Law School’s Center on the Legal Profession released a preliminary report, “The Women and Men of Harvard Law School,” on a survey of HLS graduates in the classes of 1975, 1985, 1995 and 2000. Their data is full of interesting findings. For example, it appears Harvard Law grads are actually slightly more likely to leave the practice of law than JDs as a whole: 28 percent of HLS grads from these classes no longer practice, compared to the overall 24 percent non-practicing grads identified by the ABA’s After The JD study.

Was Law School Worth It?

At Attorney at Work, we read the answers of five lawyers who have pursued various careers. Here are excerpts from each.

Help Decide the Winner of the 2015 Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction

The ABA Journal and the University of Alabama School of Law are proud to announce the finalists for the fifth annual Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction. The books picked as this year’s finalists are My Sister’s Grave, by Robert Dugoni; Terminal City, by Linda Fairstein; and The Secret of Magic, by Deborah Johnson. The prize, which is co-sponsored by the two groups and authorized by Harper Lee, has been awarded each year since To Kill a Mockingbird’s 50th anniversary to the novel that best illuminates the role of lawyers in society and their power to effect change.

Serving Prisoners

I get a lot (A LOT) of letters from people in prison – over 1000 in the last year. And I respond to every one. No, I am not a prison pen pal – I manage Georgetown Law Library’s Prison Mail Program.

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ALR Student’s Corner: The Firm: What Can Overbilling Do For You?


There are several areas of the legal profession which will remain timeless; it is from these areas that learning from the mistakes of others is critical to ensuring long, stable careers for ourselves.  Better yet, learning from mistakes made by fictitious characters has become the standardized norm by which the rules of professional responsibility is taught.  The Firm, a film adaptation of John Grisham’s novel by the same name, teaches attorneys about the repercussions which may results from their glaring professional responsibility mistakes. (SPOILER ALERT).  Mitch McDeere, played by Tom Cruise, is a recent law school graduate who has been hired by a blue chip firm half-way across the country.  After becoming deeply entangled with the firm, he learns the firm represents a mob family.  McDeere’s dilemma becomes whether to risk his life leaving the firm or continue representing an alleged crime family.  Ultimately, McDeere uses the information that the firm had been overcharging the family/clients to convince the family to pardon him for having likely exposed them to scrutiny by the FBI.

The message we may take away comes from what McDeere’s mentor, Avery Tolar played by Gene Hackman, tells him once he joins the firm: “Everything depends on billing, how many hours you spend even thinking about a client…I don’t care if you’re stuck in traffic or shaving or sitting on a park bench.”  Rule 1.5 of the North Carolina Rules of Professional Conduct covers fee and fee-related conduct.  Briefly, a lawyer shall not make an agreement for, charge, or collect an illegal or clearly excessive fee or charge or collect a clearly excessive amount for expenses. The factors to be considered in determining whether a fee is clearly excessive include the time and labor required relative to the novelty of the issue, likelihood that employment by potential client will preclude other employment, customary fees, time and limitations, relationship with the client, whether the fee is fixed or contingent, etc.

Here, the mob family had deep ties with the blue chip firm for some time.  There was no exclusivity in time spent relative to other potential work the firm may have conducted outside of illicit activities conducted through the firm (i.e., hiding mob proceeds offshore).

McDeere learns the firm is overcharging the family and uses this information to get out of potential trouble with the family.  McDeere tells the family he needs their permission to forward the family’s invoices to the government in order to take care of the overbilling.  The error in regard to procedure is McDeere’s explanation to the mob family/clients that the FBI has any hand to play in attorneys overcharging their clients.  The use of mail fraud to give the federal agency leeway to investigate the firm is a completely separate issue from the compensation agreements between the firm and the family relative to the family receiving any type of remedy.  This is another example of where films take poetic license for the sake of the plot and do not differentiate between criminal and civil liability.

Procedurally in North Carolina, subsection (f) of Rule 1.5 provides disputes regarding a fee for legal services must go through the North Carolina State Bar’s program of fee dispute resolution.  Attorneys must provide proper notice if they are claiming the dispute; attorneys must act in good faith if the clients submit a proper dispute request.

McDeere had made backups of the family’s legal files as insurance in case his plan did not go smoothly.  Ultimately, he explained to the mob family, “Whatever I know, wherever I go, I am bound to attorney-client privilege.  I am exactly a ship carrying a cargo that will never reach a port.  As long as I am alive, the ship will always be at sea.”  McDeere receives the authorization from the mob family to release copies of the family invoices to the FBI, and ultimately leaves the firm with his life.  The moral of the story is attorneys should not overbill their clients; also, attorneys should not overbill the mob. The Firm is available in the Charlotte School of Law Library DVD collection.

For more information about the Rules of Professional Conduct or for specific attorney lookup, visit

~ Ray Olang, L’15 ~

Class Advisor – Susan Catterall, Esq.

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Charlotte School of Law Moot Court Volunteers Time

Charlotte School of Law  Moot Court members volunteered to work with students associated with Classical Conversations, an organization supporting homeschooled families, in a Mock Trial event on Tuesday, May 5, 2015 at the Union County Courthouse.

District Court Judge Tripp Helms preside over the mock trial event while CharlotteLaw student Moot Court members served as jurors.  Current students as well as CharlotteLaw Moot Court alums engaged in individualized coaching with the 8th grade equivalent students to prepare them for the demands of the legal profession.  The case for the day pertained to a woman who possibly suffered from battered woman syndrome and who killed her husband, and attorney.

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“The kids didn’t seem like children playing at being attorneys,” said Shanna Rivera, CharlotteLaw Moot Court Honor Executive Board Member.  “They were laying foundations and impeaching witnesses like the best of the best.  Some of the girls almost brought me to tears with how much emotion they invested in portraying battered women.”

After the success of this event, CharlotteLaw Moot Court members are looking forward to participating in this exercise again soon.  For more information, contact Professor Ashley London,

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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]


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.


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.


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.


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.


[1] Reuters, U.S. compliance salary report: More jobs, higher pay, but post-crisis boost is limited, May 29, 2014.

[2] 2014 Compliance Trends Survey.

[3] Risk and compliance specialists in high demand at banks.

[4] Robert Half Salary Guide 2015.

[5] 2015’s Best Finance and Accounting Jobs and Their Salaries.

[6] U.S. News & World Report, Jump-Start a Legal Career With a Job in Compliance Law, March 1, 2015.

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Filed under Careers, General Charlotte School of Law Information