South Charlotte

Philanthropic attorney wins Young Lawyer of the Year

Dr. Nancy Teaff, left, and Lauren Lewis spoke during last year’s Fighting for Women with Fashion event benefiting Safe Alliance. The two women co-chaired the fundraiser.
Dr. Nancy Teaff, left, and Lauren Lewis spoke during last year’s Fighting for Women with Fashion event benefiting Safe Alliance. The two women co-chaired the fundraiser. SAFE ALLIANCE

As her nomination form for the Mecklenburg County Bar’s Young Lawyer of the Year award states, Lauren Lewis “seldom just joins anything.”

But the 33-year-old attorney has had a significant effect on the organizations she has joined.

“Lauren is a fantastic lawyer and even better person,” Rob Blair, an attorney with Lewis’ firm Essex Richards, wrote in an email. “She’s always positive and has the ability to juggle a lot on her plate.”

Lewis, a UNC-Chapel Hill School of Law graduate, received the Young Lawyer of the Year award in June. She provides pro bono legal work for families in need and has helped raise thousands of dollars for Safe Alliance’s Clyde and Ethel Dickson Domestic Violence Shelter.

Christian Staples, chairman of the Young Lawyers Division of the Mecklenburg County Bar, said Lewis’ “whole body of work impressed us.”

Her history of community service goes back to her college years at the University of South Carolina. She worked then as a technical assistance coordinator and AmeriCorps intern at the N.C. governor’s Commission on Volunteerism and Community Service.

She began volunteering as a guardian ad litem in 2003, a job that requires investigating abused or neglected children’s situations and representing their interests in custody hearings.

People are in crisis, and I like being part of the solution.

Lauren Lewis, attorney at Essex Richards

Lewis said she probably long has been on a path to specializing in family law.

She moved to Charlotte in 2007 for a job at Horack, Talley, Pharr & Lowndes, then in 2013 went to Essex Richards, where she is a board-certified specialist in family law.

While Lewis said she doesn’t necessarily enjoy battling custody cases in court, she does like the counseling aspect of her job. Her legal practice includes separation, divorce, child custody and support, domestic violence, marital agreements, alternative dispute resolution and collaborative family law.

“The folks sitting in my office are facing the worst thing they can imagine happening in their lives,” she said. “People are in crisis, and I like being part of the solution and helping people work through the hard times to get their lives back together.”

Lewis – who is married to attorney Phillip Lewis; the couple has a 2-year-old son – makes her pro bono work a priority.

Lauren handles her cases with the skill, energy, judgment and compassion that are characteristic of her.

John Parker, attorney for the Custody Advocacy Program at Council for Children’s Rights

She traces her interest in the community to growing up with a family that moved often. When they settled in a new place, they quickly got involved in church.

“What you (get) back from helping people far exceeds the output,” she said.

In Charlotte, Lewis has been a volunteer attorney for the Custody Advocacy Program of Council for Children’s Rights since 2007, and has served in many roles with Girls on the Run, an after-school running program. She now is a member of the Girls on the Run advisory board.

With Council for Children’s Rights, Lewis advocates for children in difficult custody cases.

“Lauren handles her cases with the skill, energy, judgment and compassion that are characteristic of her,” John Parker, an attorney for the Custody Advocacy Program, wrote in an email. “She’s a really good lawyer who cares deeply about the children she represents.”

Lewis also has been on the steering committee for Fighting for Women with Fashion, an annual event that raises money for Safe Alliance’s domestic violence shelter, since the event was first held in 2011.

Fighting for Women with Fashion, which features doctors and lawyers working the runway, has grown each year, raising about $150,000.

“Lauren has been instrumental in creating this group and in seeing it grow and flourish,” Mike Blackwelder, Safe Alliance chief advancement officer, wrote in an email. “Lauren clearly has a passion for her work and for working to help victims of domestic violence.”

Lewis said she was humbled to receive the Young Lawyer of the Year award.

“It means a lot that the award is given by people who know me and know my work ethic and desire to engage in the community,” she said.

Marty Minchin is a freelance writer: martyminchin@gmail.com.

  Comments