06/22/14 — Attorney in line for president of N.C. Bar

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Attorney in line for president of N.C. Bar

By Ethan Smith
Published in News on June 22, 2014 1:50 AM

When she first started practicing law, she never imagined she would find herself here.

Shelby Benton of Benton Family Law in Goldsboro has been named the new president-elect of the North Carolina Bar Association on Saturday and will become the 121st president of the association next year when she is sworn in next June in Asheville.

"It means a whole lot," Ms. Benton said. "I'm overwhelmed they believe I have the ability to lead this association. It provides me with lots of ways to help lawyers further their careers and to continue helping the public."

Her career as a lawyer began in 1985, after leaving the eastern shore of Maryland to attend North Carolina State University for undergraduate school and continuing on to Campbell University to obtain her law degree.

"I had a high school teacher that looked at me one day and said, 'You should attend law school,' and so I went home and told my dad that I wanted to be a lawyer, and he said I had to go to college first," Ms. Benton said. "My father looked at me after visiting N.C. State and said, 'Go south, little girl, 'cause there is two feet of snow on the ground in Pennsylvania today,'" she said. "Penn State was my other option, but when we visited N.C. State, everyone was so friendly and welcoming, so we paid our tuition right then and I attended."

During her time as an undergraduate student, Ms. Benton had an internship with the Attorney General's office, which cemented her decision to practice law as a career. After obtaining her law degree, she came to Goldsboro to practice in 1985 and has served the community for 29 years.

The news of her appointment as president-elect was sudden, she said.

She said she received an email from past president, Martin Brinkley of Raleigh, saying that he wanted to see her right away.

"I didn't know what to expect," she said. "It usually takes at least three weeks to schedule anything with other lawyers because we're all so busy, but he wanted to see me the very next day. I figured it was to ask me to help him serve on a committee at most."

Then, the next day, both Brinkley and Lindsay C. Warren Jr. walked into her office to deliver the news.

"I couldn't believe they wanted me, a small town family lawyer, to serve in this capacity," Ms. Benton said. "It's an honor."

Ms. Benton has served within the NCBA throughout her career. She chaired the family law section of the association from 2009 to 2010, and served on the NCBA board of governors from 2010 to 2013. She was also president of the Wayne County Bar Association and the 8th Judicial District Bar.

"Every past president has told me this will be the best and hardest work I've ever done," she said.