Today, the Sarah Stevenson Forum hosted four Charlotte women with more than 30 years of law experience in law professions.
Each woman shared some of her most memorable cases, significant moments and lessons learned in their profession.
While each woman found different paths into law and practiced in various parts of the field, they all shared a common passion for helping those in need.
Check out the snapshots of each speaker below. You can watch the whole forum here.
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Alice Richey was born in Charlotte and graduated from West Charlotte High School in 1977. She got into the law field to take after her father, who was also a lawyer. She said he was a big inspiration to her.
At the start of this year, Richey stopped taking new cases and is now a mediator — she tries to help people avoid going to court to settle their issues.
“Standing on principal is a great thing in theory, but if you actually have to go to court and do that, it often doesn’t work out quite the way you might want it to,” Richey said at the forum.
Alice Cunnings was born in Cleveland, Ohio. Her parents moved to Liberia in Africa when she was a child. They lived there for four years. When she moved back to the states, she studied law at UNC Law School.
She began working in land loss prevention and became interested in helping people hold onto their property. Currently, Cunnings practices bankruptcy-related cases at Cunnings Law Firm, which she formed with her husband, a lawyer.
“A lot of times people think, “Hey, when you’re filing bankruptcy, you’re really, really broke. Not really. Most of the clients I have are middle-classed people who are trying to hold onto what they have.”
Cynthia Aziz is originally from Maine but has been in Charlotte since 1988. Aziz said she came to North Carolina to practice immigration law, a desire that came from when she was young. Growing up, she lived in an area with a large amount of lawyers who focused on immigration.
Aziz said her mentors told her after she graduated law school that if she practiced immigration law in North Carolina, she would be a “big fish in a small pond.”
Aziz has run her law firm, Aziz Law Firm, in North Carolina since 1990.
“What’s drawn me to immigration law since I was young was the concept of re-establishing your life in a new place and how difficult that is. Whether it’s a new place in this county or a new place anywhere in the world,” Aziz said at the forum. “It’s not often by choice; it’s often by circumstances.”
Cindy Patton, who grew up in Concord, did not want to be a lawyer. “I sort of fell into this profession,” Patton said at the forum.
When she attended college at UNC Charlotte, Patton wanted to be a clinical psychologist. However, after feeling burned out by her college studies, she decided to work before enrolling in graduate school.
She got a job with an insurance company but became “disillusioned” with the work. She went into legal aid to help the community and ultimately decided to pursue a law profession. She studied law at UNC Chapel Hill.
“It is a privilege to be able to help people who, if not for you and your colleagues, would fall through the cracks,” Patton said at the forum.