Champ Camp Leadership Council kicked off the year 2020 at CATA, bringing in one of the biggest turnouts the council has ever seen. The room was filled with first-timers from all over Union County: teenagers from Sun Valley, Marvin Ridge, Piedmont, Parkwood, Weddington, and more. Two amazing speakers came to show the students a day in the life of their respective careers, and to teach students the importance of networking and curiosity.
The first speaker was Claire J. Samuels, an attorney and partner with James, McElroy & Diehl in uptown Charlotte. She is a certified Collaborative Law Attorney and Family Financial Mediator, dealing with separation agreements, financial resolutions, child custody, child support, prenuptial agreements, and domestic violence cases. She also is part of many boards and associations, such as the Jamie Kimble Foundation for Courage, Women’s Impact Fund, Children’s Home Society, Mecklenburg County Bar, and Good Friends Charlotte.
During her presentation, Claire shared her journey to becoming a family law lawyer and some of the lessons she learned along the way. She talked to students about the value of character and the importance of having a strong moral compass. She provided tips on recovering from mistakes, establishing boundaries and the need for self-care. She encouraged students to explore what lights them up and to choose a career based on their passion. Students learned from Claire that there is not just one formula for success and that they should major in something they are passionate. Claire also encouraged students to get involved in as many diverse extracurricular activities as possible to become well-rounded and skilled. She also emphasized the importance of building relationships within your community and giving back.
Claire decided she wanted to be a lawyer in the third grade after years of watching “Matlock” with her parents. It would not be until several years later when she witnessed a domestic violence incident at a shopping mall and then experienced her own parent’s divorce, that she knew she wanted to practice family law. Claire understands the impact a high-conflict divorce can have on children and she is committed to supporting and educating her clients about alternative resolutions that will empower them to resolve their legal disputes while preserving the civility that allows them to raise healthy and well-adjusted children.
At the conclusion of her speech, the children were given an opportunity to ask Claire any questions they had regarding her speech, her life, or the career as a whole. Questions were asked about how long it takes to complete law school (3 years), if Claire was inspired by any popular cases growing up (no), and if she had ever taken any pro bono cases (yes). Upon being asked how she manages her work and personal life, Claire recommended creating healthy boundaries, carving out time for family, exercising, spreading out big events as to not overwhelm yourself, and learning to say “no.” The last question asked Claire if she had ever doubted herself in her career choice, to which she responded that yes, there was a point where she wasn’t as excited about her work as she had used to be, so she re-evaluated her practice and made adjustments that restored her passion for helping families and children going through a divorce. She advised students in similar situations to “pause, reframe, [and] pivot.”
The second speaker was Paul Ledbetter, a former worker at Microsoft who is now part of his own start-up dealing with legal contracts. Throughout his career, he worked with other widely-respected tech companies such as GE Capital, KPMG, and Siebel.
His high school experience consisted of sports and student council, growing up with an attorney and a teacher as parents who helped him value education. Paul worked three jobs at one time to help pay for law school, before he began studying at the University of Oxford in England.
After graduating, Paul worked for a law firm for 3 years, assisting with any technological needs such as setting up computers and networks. Realizing his skill, he moved on to work at other companies, progressively moving up the ranks until he made it to Microsoft.
Paul worked at Microsoft for 15 years, meeting all 3 CEOs throughout his time there, and travelling to 48 states and 12 countries. Among the 3 corners at microsoft; tech programming, marketing, and sales, he worked in sales, practicing the skills of being social and friendly with strangers, skills that he advised students to master.
Students learned from Paul that the number one trait you need to be successful is curiosity. You need to be determined, and driven to constantly learn things no matter where you are. They also learned the benefits of working for a big company like Microsoft, which include things like free health insurance, building important connections, travelling the world, experiencing diversity, and gaining exposure. Paul encouraged those soon entering the workforce to make their work about passion instead of money, and to explore new things when they feel stuck.
One more thing Paul taught the students is that every job is important, no matter how big or small. He used a video game as an example, explaining that although the focus is on the game itself and its’ activities, there has to be someone to design the water, or to code the action scenes.
During the Q&A session, students asked Paul for some resume-building qualities. He listed a few that he had been demonstrating himself; do unto others as you would have them do unto you, do small generous things for others as often as you can, be friendly and approachable, and build a positive image of yourself on social media. A few questions were asked about Paul’s start-up and what the process is like for someone interested in starting their own. He recommended finding investments first and presenting your business plan to investors, comparing it to the show Shark Tank.
Before heading home, students completed a networking exercise in which they introduced themselves to 4 complete strangers. They were able to learn each others’ names, schools, grades, extracurricular activities, and reasons why they decided to attend Champ Camp. Once the activity was finished they reflected on certain aspects of the conversations that would be beneficial in real life professional circumstances. The majority of students agreed that proper handshakes, eye contact, and the display of curiosity from one person to another made the interactions comfortable and friendly.
The next Champ Camp meeting is February 20th at CATA.