2018 Citizen Lawyer Award Winner Robert Norris
The Citizen Lawyer Committee of the NCBA Young Lawyers Division, in conjunction with the NCBA Citizen Lawyer Committee, provides expanded coverage of the 2018 Citizen Lawyer Award recipients in recognition of their volunteer service and leadership in their communities and beyond.
By Bryan Norris
CHARLOTTE – Robert Norris did not plan to be a lawyer. While attending UNC-Chapel Hill’s MBA program following four years of undergraduate education and one trip to the Tangerine Bowl as an outside linebacker and football team captain at Davidson College, Norris was asked by his father, Amos, to attend a meeting to discuss the sale of the company Amos had founded to a larger, multi-national corporation. At the meeting, Norris and his father negotiated the purchase together, without representation, engaging with the buyer’s executives and sophisticated corporate attorneys.
This experience had a profound impact on Norris. He knew firsthand, through watching his father’s company grow and flourish, how important a closely held business is to its principals, its employees, and its community. He also saw the incredible value of effective legal counsel, and recognized that small businesses and their owners deserved the same quality of representation as that enjoyed by large, publicly-traded corporations. As a result, Norris graduated from UNC in 1976 with both an MBA and a JD.
Shortly after law school, Norris co-founded the law firm of Wishart Norris in Burlington, North Carolina. He also founded or co-founded several area non-profits, chaired the Alamance County Strategic Planning Task Force, and, as chairman of the Alamance County Chamber of Commerce, established the Leadership Alamance program.
Under Norris’ leadership, Wishart Norris grew considerably, and he oversaw the opening of the firm’s Charlotte office in the mid-1990s. Norris immediately continued his public service after moving to Charlotte, serving as director of the Lynnwood Foundation, a non-profit which operates both the Duke Mansion and the Lee Institute, a program dedicated to building a collaborative environment for community leaders. He has also served as director of the non-profit NPower Charlotte Region (now Apparo), which provides technology solutions to other non-profits. Norris increased his involvement with nearby Davidson College, serving as national chairman for its annual fund, joining its Board of Trustees, and establishing a scholarship in his father’s name. Norris also stayed connected with the Alamance County community by co-chairing Elon University’s Parents Council.
In 2011, Norris was named General Counsel to the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce, and joined its Board of Advisors as a member. Keva L. Walton, the Chief Growth Officer for the Charlotte Chamber, calls Norris “an essential thread of Charlotte’s business community fabric[,]” noting that “[h]e lives the very principles that I believe are embodied in NCBA’s Citizen Lawyer Award.” Pamela S. Duffy, a past Citizen Lawyer Award recipient and nominating sponsor for Norris, echoed Mr. Walton’s praise, writing in her nomination letter that “Robert has been a positive force in every community he has been a part of, be it legal or local. His dedication and leadership in many charitable and community organizations has made a profound impact on many North Carolinians. Robert is exceptional.”
Norris presently serves as a member of the Professional Advisors Cabinet for the Foundation for the Carolinas, one of the largest philanthropic community foundations in the country. An active member of his church, Norris is an Elder with the Presbyterian Church (USA).
The North Carolina Bar Association is pleased to honor Robert Norris as a 2018 recipient of the Citizen Lawyer Award.
Bryan Norris is an attorney clerking for Judge Lucy N. Inman at the N.C. Court of Appeals. He is also proud to call Robert his father.