When she graduated from William & Mary Law School in 1995, Carla Archie was presented the George Wythe Award in recognition of her service to the Law School. Twenty-one years later, Archie, now Resident Superior Court Judge for the 26th Judicial District of North Carolina, returned to receive the 2016 Citizen Lawyer Award during William & Mary Law School’s Diploma Ceremony.
The award, which signifies the Law School Association’s highest recognition, is given annually to a graduate or friend of the Law School who has made “a lifetime commitment to citizenship and leadership.”
“Judge Archie was deeply engaged with service when she was a law student here, and has been a leader ever since,” said Dean Davison M. Douglas.
As a law student, Judge Archie was president of the Black Law Students Association, a member of the Moot Court Board, and was elected to membership in the Order of the Barristers.
She started her legal career as a prosecutor in Charlotte, North Carolina, and was ultimately promoted to Chief Assistant District Attorney in charge of felony drug prosecutions. She then transitioned into commercial litigation as Vice President and Assistant General Counsel for Wachovia Corporation.
Judge Archie went on to serve as Deputy Executive Director and the first General Counsel of the North Carolina Education Lottery, before returning to her commercial litigation practice as Senior Counsel for Wells Fargo & Company.
In 2014, Judge Archie was elected to serve as a Resident Superior Court Judge for the 26th Judicial District of North Carolina. As such, she presides over felony criminal matters, civil matters involving more than $25,000 in dispute, and misdemeanor appeals from district court in Mecklenburg County and six surrounding counties.
Over the years, Judge Archie has been deeply involved in the civic life of her community in Charlotte and Raleigh. She is a past president of the Mecklenburg County Bar Association, has served on the board of the Triangle Urban League, and has been a leader of the STARS Math and English Academy, a non-profit in Charlotte that provides additional educational services for at-risk children.
She was recently recognized for her civic and legal work, being named one of the 50 most influential women in Charlotte, and has been honored as the outstanding alumna of her alma mater, Hampton University.
Addressing students and family attending the graduation ceremony, Judge Archie said she wakes up every morning hoping to find ways to do more, to be more, to do better, and to be better.
“I don’t do it for honor or recognition. It’s simply in my DNA,” she said. “And I try to use my natural gifts and abilities as well as the lessons I learned here at William & Mary.”
Judge Archie then reminded the graduating class that they are part of a fine tradition—and that she has strong expectations for them.
“I am expecting you to be great; I am expecting you to use your natural gifts and abilities not just in service to yourselves, but into service for others,” Archie said. “Find ways to be great—great lawyers, great people, great husbands and wives, but most of all, great citizen lawyers. Thank you for this honor.”
The concept of the citizen lawyer is rooted in Thomas Jefferson’s original mission for the Law School that he created in 1779 at the College of William & Mary. Jefferson and the man he recruited to establish the school, his mentor George Wythe, wanted students not only to be skilled practitioners of the law, but also leaders for the common good of their communities, states and nation.
Thomas Jefferson founded William & Mary Law School in 1779 to train leaders for the new nation. Now in its third century, America's oldest law school continues its historic mission of educating citizen lawyers who are prepared both to lead and to serve.