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By: William T. Medlin, IV
Horack, Talley, Pharr & Lowndes, P.A.
Charlotte, North Carolina

Clayton “Smithy” Curry

This is the next in line of a series of interviews with successful senior lawyers at various Primerus member firms, offering advice to young lawyers on how to succeed and thrive.

Smithy Curry’s legal practice focuses on the representation of real estate developers, investors, contractors and owners in connection with the acquisition, development and management of real estate projects, including residential subdivisions, condominiums, apartments, multi-use projects, hotels and office buildings. He feels fortunate to have established a long-lasting and ongoing working relationship with many clients by stressing the importance of transactions being closed and projects being completed.

Since the fall of 1999, Smithy has served as managing attorney of Horack Talley. During this period, Horack Talley has strived to be a well-respected, mid-sized law firm servicing the Charlotte region that emphasizes the experience and skills required to benefit the firm’s clients in specific practice groups and niche practice areas.

 1. What are some ideas on how an associate can market him or herself or his or her practice?

First, I feel an associate needs to determine what commitment the associate’s law firm will make toward that associate’s development of his or her practice.  At Horack Talley, we very much encourage associates to begin developing their practice and require each of them to annually prepare their own individual business development plan.  The associate’s area of practice has a lot to do with how that practice can be developed.  For example, developing a family law associate’s practice is probably very different from developing a transactional associate’s practice.  Probably, the two most important things in developing any associate’s practice are to (1) cross-sell yourself within the firm by being eager, hard-working, and knowledgeable and (2) identify those organizations outside of the firm that would generate business for that associate.  If you read or listen to the latest law firm marketing gurus, you will note that there are a number of ways to market law firms and lawyers and many of those ways have changed dramatically over the years.  However, a constant has always been developing relationships which will either directly provide work for an attorney or provide referrals which will lead to work for an attorney.  Starting to build those relationships are very important for an associate.

 2. What are the best organizations and committees an associate can join to maximize professional exposure?

I do believe that every associate should become active in the local Bar’s young lawyers section.  Varying on personal interest and the associate’s practice area, an associate should join organizations in which he or she can be active and preferably where there are not a lot of other attorneys in the organization.  It doesn’t do a lot of good if you are just an attorney among many attorneys in a particular organization.  I will use my personal experience as a good example.  In my third year of practice, I helped start a new Lion’s Club in Charlotte and I became the first president.  The club grew to about 60 members.  Over the years, I became active with Lionism statewide and nationally.  Through those involvements, I developed a significant number of clients who remained with me for many years.  I also joined a number of other organizations in which I was active.  Again, it must be an organization in which you will continue to have an interest and be active.

 3. What do associates do that drives you crazy?

Obviously, this question could be answered in a lot of joking ways.  Yet, there is one thing that does frustrate me about young associates.  Clearly, an associate should take on a task or project and use his or her best initiative to try and resolve it.  However, when it is clear that the associate does not know what he or she is doing and needs help, the associate should seek the necessary advice to get the job done correctly.  Sometimes they run up a lot of time, which cannot be billed, on an approach which is simply wrong or not helpful.  Therefore, when an associate does not know how to proceed, it is much better if the associate will ask questions and seek advice so that the job can be done effectively.

 4. What can associates do to stand out in the firm?

If an associate does good work, builds camaraderie within the firm, and is active in the associate’s practice group, that associate is going to stand out.

Will Medlin's practice is dedicated to family law, with emphasis on equitable distribution, child custody, child support, alimony, post-separation support, step-parent adoptions, and post-judgment practice including contempt proceedings. Will practices in Mecklenburg, Gaston, and the surrounding counties.

For more information about Clayton “Smithy” Curry, Jr., William T. Medlin, IV or Horack, Talley, Pharr & Lowndes, P.A., please visit