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NC Workers' Compensation Lawyer - Jay Gervasi - Part 5

Noted Greensboro Workers' Compensation Attorney Jay Gervasi joins Law Talk with Bill Powers to discuss the practice of law.

Bill Powers: And I do get worried when I hear people going to law school because they say, "I want to make a lot of money." I think law, to me, is a higher calling and I know the law schools, I was actually speaking with Peggy Abrams on the phone earlier this week, we were talking about law schools and who gets admitted. And law schools I think are very much interested in people who have perspectives that are a bit more altruistic in nature.

Bill Powers: In fact, one of the problems now is that the cost of school has gotten so much, so high, that even if you wanted to be a public service lawyer you can't always afford to do it because of the amount of debt that you come out of law school. So it's different now than it was when you graduated law school in the early '80s and it's different for me as well.

Bill Powers: And we have jobs to do and sometimes we like parts of the jobs and there are times not so much. It is a lot to carry, especially when you know that person's looking at you and saying this is my life, this is my livelihood and we take those jobs and those roles and responsibilities seriously.

Bill Powers: So, and I'm glad you did mention NCAJ, that's an organization that I do recommend, whether you are an insurance defense lawyer or you're a prosecutor or a plaintiff's lawyer, a criminal defense lawyer, I do encourage the lawyers to get involved in the community. In the legal community and their individual community. So if you're a plaintiff's lawyer, NCAJ, if you're a district attorney, a conference of district attorneys, because there is more to the practice of law than just stepping in a courtroom or arguing motions or going to court of appeals. I think we have a duty to give back to the community.

Bill Powers: And you've been very generous with that with your time, I see you do that yourself. So how did you get into that? What kind of things do you do as far as, you mentioned going to an event at Janet Ward Black's place this last week.

Jay Gervasi: I mean it was a welcoming party for a new lawyer there.

Bill Powers: That's important too. Welcome to the practice, but yeah, go ahead.

Jay Gervasi: And despite having left that firm, and Jenna Ward's a friend of mine. They just had this little gathering, it was no big service thing, I just ran over there for an hour and said hi to some of my old friends. But as far as the activity within the bar, a lot of it for me is self-serving, admittedly. When I was casting around trying to figure out what I was going to do after I got fired the second time, Tom Mcneely down in Charlotte, I was networking around, he said, "Well, I don't have anything for you but whatever you do, you've got to get involved in this North Carolina Academy of Trial Lawyers, because I've got this workers' comp committee," it wasn't even a section yet, "and all the top plaintiff's lawyers who do that stuff are there and you'll learn a lot from them."

Jay Gervasi: And that was absolutely true. They're very generous people, a generation ahead of me. Some of them are still hanging around. Or just it made me a much better lawyer. When I went to work with [inaudible] Bill, I was the only guy there with any real comp experience and they'd all been on the other side and all been practicing law for four years. So there was no place in the firm that I was going to get the ability to become a better lawyer.

Jay Gervasi: So getting involved in the organization was critical for me, too. When I was on the defense side, not as much because you would have multiple lawyers in the same firm doing the same kind of work and you would learn from them. My old boss, Rick Lewis for example, one of the deans of the defense bar, a real nice guy. Which went to show that I could be fired by people who were really nice. And also on the other side there's a certain amount of more jealous guarding of the expertise because the competition for the insurance company clients is harsh and really weighs on the lawyers. So you don't have quite as much cooperation on the other side.

Jay Gervasi: Those lawyers tended to do community things, in the outside community more. In my observation they were more likely to be on the boards of symphonies and that sort of thing than we are, because they don't have the same sort of level of activity in their bar groups that we do. But it's just important to your clients. And I do a lot of continuing education presentations, after a while I do the workers' comp annual case law update every year that we present at our convention.

Jay Gervasi: And lately I've had some other lawyers working with me on that, in the presentation part. I still do the manuscript, which is probably pretty lame because I'm doing it, but with three or four of us doing the presentation, it's a much better presentation. I was getting to the point where after an hour, I was on my 25th case, I was starting to lose track of what I was talking about. But those sorts of things, they're important to service the bar. For me it also helps me keep updated in my own practice, and also the people we practice with are friends of mine, are colleagues, and it's just good to be with them.

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