Top Lawyers: 5 Things You Need To Become A Top Lawyer In Your Specific Field of Law
Posted on July 2023
“Adrienne Blocker is the Managing Trial Attorney at DeMayo Law Offices and has 25 years of experience in plaintiff’s personal injury law. At DeMayo Law Offices, Adrienne represents clients against insurance companies, ensuring they receive the justice they deserve and is dedicated to assisting individuals who have been injured due to the negligence of others and supporting families affected by wrongful death. She has a deep-rooted commitment to giving back to the community and is heavily involved with the North Carolina Mock Trial Program – as well as being an advocate for empowering young minds.”
What is the backstory that brought you to this particular career path in law? Did you want to be an attorney when you grew up?
Becoming an attorney was a long journey for me. In college, I initially pursued a career in accounting and currently, am only three classes away from completing the requirements to become one. However, my friends and family always saw me as someone destined for a legal career, and I must admit that I was the only one surprised when I ultimately became an attorney.
I began my professional journey as a legal secretary at a law office in Guam. After, I moved to North Dakota, where I became a Certified Legal Assistant. Following that, I ventured to North Carolina and worked as a paralegal before finally attending law school. I successfully obtained my J.D. degree and graduated at the age of 35.
Can you tell us a bit about the nature of your practice and what you focus on?
I am a personal injury trial attorney. I make a distinction between myself and litigators – to me, litigators primarily handle depositions and mediations, but they rarely have the opportunity to step into the courtroom. I actively engage in courtroom proceedings and when clients approach me and my team, they understand that there is a serious chance of going to trial and us presenting their case effectively.
Which three-character traits do you feel contribute to this? What unique qualities do you have that others may not? Can you share a story or example for each?
Relatability is crucial to me in my interactions with juries and clients. Whether I’m addressing a jury or preparing a client for depositions, I strive to communicate like an ordinary person rather than strictly a legal professional who only uses legal jargon. This approach proves impactful, particularly when connecting with the jury. It enables me to establish a different level of rapport compared to the ‘three-piece suit’ on the other side.
Integrity and honesty are essential to my practice. These values are fundamental, as juries can easily identify authenticity. It’s crucial I stay true to myself rather than attempting to portray a false image.
Active listening is required. This means paying attention to both the verbal and non-verbal messages being sent by the speaker. Equally important is the ability to truly comprehend what individuals are expressing, rather than simply waiting for them to finish speaking and then jumping to the next question. This approach allows better interaction with the witness, and I’ve found that juries appreciate both the respect given by me as well as the information received through active listening.
Do you think you’ve had luck in your success? Can you explain what you mean?
I believe luck plays a role to some extent in all our lives. However, I firmly believe that success is not achievable without putting in the necessary work and effort and everything that goes with it. Hard work, dedication, and perseverance allows us to position ourselves for success. I believe the ‘fates,’ if you will, reward those of us who are prepared to work hard.
Do you think where you went to school has any bearing on your success? How important is it for a lawyer to go to a top-tier school?
Even though I did not attend what is commonly regarded as a top-tier school in North Carolina such as the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill or Duke, I believe my education at Campbell University positioned me for success. At Campbell, they place importance on teaching you the practical skills necessary to become a successful attorney. Upon graduation, I was able to confidently enter a courtroom and know how to navigate legal proceedings.
Based on the lessons you’ve learned, from your experience, if you could go back in time and speak to your 20-year-old self, what would you say? Would you do anything differently?
Looking back, I would consider changing several aspects of my life. I don’t regret the path I’ve taken, but there are decisions I made at a younger age that today, I would approach differently. For instance, I would not change whom I married, but I would advise my younger self to not get married a month after turning 19. I would remind myself to slow down and enjoy the present moment. I would encourage my younger self to appreciate the journey and experiences along the way instead of rushing through life.
What is your primary motivation and drive behind the work that you do?
The primary motivation and drive behind the work I do is simple – I believe wholeheartedly in doing well by and taking care of people. To support and care for others is an innate desire for me and what I do at work feeds directly into that.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you’re working on?
Practicing personal injury law, particularly in trial work, can be exciting for an attorney. However, I remain aware that this excitement is not shared by my clients. Focusing on their experiences, I work hard to take care of and guide them through what can often be a lengthy, intrusive, and grueling process.
Recently, we successfully resolved a devastating wrongful death claim. As the attorney on the case, it was challenging for me to manage the various experts involved in the claim while simultaneously protecting the children who were not aware of all the details regarding the horrific accident. I had to stand strong for the widow and act as a pillar of support as we navigated through the case.
Regardless of the circumstances, each case presents its own unique challenges – whether a car wreck, pedestrian vs. car collision, or dog bite injury. It’s important to me, no matter the case, that I always guide and support each client along the way.
In terms of where you aim to be in the next chapter of your career, where do you go from here? Can you comment on that a little bit.
Being part of DeMayo Law Offices feels like the final chapter of my career. When I initially joined the team, I anticipated having five to seven more years before retirement. However, I don’t believe I’ll retire “on time.” Regardless of the timing of my retirement, one thing that remains constant is my commitment to giving back to the community. I enjoy working with high school students through the North Carolina High School Mock Trial Program where I help them develop their public speaking skills and build their confidence when in the courtroom. When I finally retire, I will continue my volunteerism and indulge my desire to travel even more than currently.
Can you please share your most successful war story?
One of my most rewarding cases was several years ago after North Carolina introduced a backwards and draconian rule of evidence that the entire plaintiffs’ bar was in an uproar about. We were working to find a “poster child” case that could take on the rule. I was representing a young couple who were involved in a horrific head-on crash. They allowed me to use their case to try and contest the law and although we didn’t prevail, it was exceptionally rewarding that my clients were willing to do that.
Can you provide some advice for aspiring lawyers?
It’s important to look deep within yourself and make sure a career in law is truly something you want to devote yourself to. No matter the practice area – personal injury, family law, estate planning, etc. – you need to make sure that your work meshes with your personality and beliefs.
As you grow in your career, maintain your integrity and honesty. Your word and work ethic are going to follow you. Your reputation of being honest and forthright with the “other side” and the court will stand you well throughout your career.
How has the legal world changed since COVID? How do you think it might change in the near future?
COVID introduced several changes and challenges for the legal world. I now participate in zoom mediations and zoom depositions both of which present their own sets of challenges. Even post-COVID, we still include Zoom mediation and depositions in our daily practice.
We often hear about the importance of networking and getting referrals. Is this still true today? Has the importance of networking changed?
In the legal profession, networking is important. Networking can play a big part in gaining insight on a case. It gives you the opportunity to speak with someone who has handled a similar case, find guidance on how to approach a case, find the best doctors, etc. This branch of networking is very beneficial in my line of work.
Based on your experience, how can attorneys effectively leverage social media to build their practice?
Pay attention to LinkedIn and network with other professionals in the legal community. Make sure what you post on your LinkedIn aligns with who you are in both a professional and personal setting.
Five things you need to become a top lawyer in your specific field of law.
1. Integrity and honesty. In the courtroom, I have had judges tell me they will take me at my word, and then I watch them give the next attorney the inquisition because they don’t trust them. That makes a difference.
2. Relatability and the ability to listen. This includes interactions with clients, expert witnesses, the defense, and most importantly, the jury. Remembering that it’s not just about verbal communication. Paying attention to body language can make a big difference.
3. Multitasking, organizational skills, and flexibility. In North Carolina, you may be scheduled for a trial on Monday of next week, along with 10 other trials. When Monday arrives, your trial gets postponed to a later date. You must be ready to adapt to these different situations.
4. The old saying, “Know when to hold them and know when to fold them.” Oftentimes, it’s important to perform a cost-benefit analysis to determine what to expect from a jury and what your client can handle. Always consider your client’s risk tolerance and how they will fare in court.
5. Lastly, a client-centric approach. Ultimately, the focus is always on the clients and their needs, not on us.
Is there a person in the World or in the U.S. with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with and why?
The late Ruth Bader Ginsburg. I was a big fan of RBG, and I had the privilege of being admitted to the U.S. Supreme Court on a day where she read one of the Court’s decisions. It was one of the coolest experiences of my life, and I would love to have been able to sit and have a coffee with her one morning before work.