High Point University School of Law Founding Dean and former North Carolina Chief Justice Mark Martin recently sat down with Judge Marcus Shields at High Point University. Their discussion was part of a series of conversations in January 2023 in which Dean Martin interviewed prominent North Carolina judges and lawyers to discuss why they pursued law school and the principles that have led to their professional success.
Marcus Shields started his career at a small law firm in Eastern North Carolina. He then worked for North Carolina Prisoner Legal Services, Inc. as a Post-Conviction Attorney in Raleigh and as an Assistant Public Defender at the Guilford County Public Defender’s Office, where he represented clients in District and Superior Court. Judge Shields was appointed as a District Court Judge by North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper in 2018. He presided over cases in every district courtroom in Guilford County and served as the presiding judge for the Greensboro Juvenile Drug Treatment Court, the High Point Juvenile Drug Treatment Court, and the Greensboro Adult Mental Health Court. In 2022 Judge Shields returned to private practice to practice civil litigation in the Greensboro office of Ellis & Winters LLP. Judge Shields also currently serves as the President of the Greensboro Bar Association.
Dean Martin and Judge Shields discussed a variety of topics, including why Judge Shields choose to go to law school, his experience as a judge and lawyer in private practice, diversity in the legal profession, and his advice to those considering law school. On the topic of how best to enhance diversity in the profession, Judge Shields highlighted the important role of mentorship in which more seasoned attorneys provide guidance and counsel to law students and young attorneys. He added that strong mentors are foundational in helping law students and young attorneys determine their best path to attain fulfillment and success in the legal profession.
After Judge Shields spoke about some of his experiences as a judge and in private practice, Dean Martin asked him whether he was happy with his decision to attend law school. He quickly responded, “I wouldn’t change it for the world. I’m very happy that I made that choice to go to law school.” Judge Shields also offered these words of counsel to prospective law students, “Change your perception of what it means to be great. Everybody that goes to law school is smart. . . . and so when you go to law school you are competing with the top of the top. [You therefore should look at success] a different way—that you are here to learn, gain a skill set, as well as get an education so that you can impact lives afterwards. . . . You just have to be the best version of you to be able to help people . . . .”
View the entire discussion between Dean Martin and Judge Shields above.
“I knew I wanted to help people and I realized that as an attorney I could be both a counselor and an advisor.”
Judge Marcus Shields