The William & Mary Law School Alumni Association recognized M. Cabell Clay J.D. ’08 as recipient of the 2018 Taylor Reveley Award during the Law School’s May 13 Diploma Ceremony.
Named in honor of William & Mary President and former Law School Dean Taylor Reveley, the award recognizes outstanding commitment to public service by an alumna or alumnus who has graduated in the previous 10 years.
In his introduction, Dean Davison M. Douglas recounted Clay’s strong involvement with Moot Court and Trial Team when she was a law student, after which she became a member of the Order of Barristers and joined Moore & Van Allen PLCC as corporate litigator.
“From the beginning, Cabell had a real commitment to pro bono service,” Douglas said. “She recently made partner in her law firm, and in the last five years has devoted 2,500 hours to pro bono service in addition to a very busy life as an associate and now a partner at Moore & Van Allen.”
Douglas then listed just some of Clay’s many service-oriented accomplishments. She volunteered to help indigent tenants who had disputes with their landlords; served as disaster legal services coordinator in the wake of Hurricane Matthew in 2016; served on the board of a children’s rights organization; was named the Young Lawyer of the Year in North Carolina; served as a volunteer judge in Charlotte, North Carolina; and took an assignment to become a district attorney for six months.
“Cabell, you’ve only been out of law school for 10 years, but you have accomplished amazing things,” Douglas said. “I love the fact that you were picked for this award, because I want our graduates to see…that becoming a citizen lawyer does not begin in your 30th or 40th year of being a lawyer. It can begin today, and you’re a great example of that.”
In her remarks, Clay said that, like many lawyers she began her career worried about how she could balance work and service. She found her inspiration in a 2009 article by William & Mary President Taylor Reveley, who had been dean when she was a law student. The article, “The Citizen Lawyer,” contained the following observation:
“Being a citizen lawyer is not about being perfect; it is about getting started and doing the best we can amid all the other demands on our time and energy. Being a citizen lawyer is rarely about being a transcendent political leader who saves the galaxy. It is about the countless ways, most of them small and mundane, in which any lawyer can make a difference for the better, drawing on the comparative advantages for leadership inherent in legal training and experience. Most days, being a citizen lawyer is not hard, it just takes doing.”
Clay considered reading this passage her “aha!” moment. “That was my moment that clicked for me,” she said. “All I had to do was do it.”
Clay then offered the Class of 2018 practical tips for embracing the citizen lawyer ideal in their own practice. In brief, she told them to: 1) Follow their passion; 2) Respect and understand their schedule; 3) Use public service to build their brand in the community; and 4) Build relationships. She added that public service is a perfect opportunity to meet people and establish solid bonds with clients.
As she finished her remarks, Clay returned to President Reveley’s article on “The Citizen Lawyer,” giving the Class of 2018 one last, simple piece of advice.
“Begin on Day One by doing.”
Previous recipients of the Reveley Award include Douglas Bunch B.A. ’02, J.D. ’06 and Douglas Smith J.D. ’06 (2011), Alexis A. McLeod J.D. ’07 (2012), Chris Rey J.D. ’10 (2013), Latoya C. Asia J.D. ’09 (2014), William C. Smith B.A. ’04, J.D. ’09 (2015), Maryann Nolan Chong J.D. ’07 (2016), and Bishop M. Garrison, Jr. J.D. ’10 (2017).
To read the entire article, “The Citizen Lawyer,” by President Reveley, please visit our archives.
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.