Tin Fulton Walker & Owen’s Katy Lewis Parker
reflects on six years as legal director for the
American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina
INTERVIEW BY AMY KATES
PHOTOGRAPHY BY JEFF CRAVOTTA
KATY LEWIS PARKER
· PARTNER, TIN FULTON WALKER
& OWEN; WILMINGTON
· CRIMINAL DEFENSE;
· NORTH CAROLINA
SUPER LAWYERS 2015-2016;
TOP 50 WOMEN 2016
Q: You went from Holland & Knight to
the ACLU. Why the transition?
A: I interned for the ACLU when I was in
law school and loved it. I took a circuitous
path to get back there. But I don’t regret it.
Holland & Knight had such a reputation
for pro bono. They also did a lot of media law,
and I always gravitated towards constitutional
issues. I was there for five years; during that
time my husband, a reservist, got called to
Iraq. I didn’t plan to stay at a large firm for as
long as I did, but it turned out that for many
reasons, it was necessary.
But the big-firm lifestyle wasn’t a good
fit for me—having nothing do with Holland
& Knight. I have only good things to say
of my fellow attorneys. They taught me
how law should be practiced. I had great
mentors there, like Elizabeth Bevington,
who taught me how to write a good brief,
which was great once I got to the ACLU,
because I had to hit the ground running.
Q: What was the best lesson learned at
Holland & Knight that you took to the
A: The partners always talked about
Q: How was the learning curve?
taking ownership of a case. It’s hard to do
that as a rookie lawyer at a big firm. You
don’t have ownership because you’ve got
other partners working on it. I really didn’t
understand that until the ACLU. Where
that ownership really comes through is
discovery. You have to get into a case and
roll around in it to do good discovery.
A: It was overwhelming that first year
because constitutional law itself is very
complex. One thing that’s a challenge
at the ACLU is that it deals with so many
different constitutional issues, and so there’s
a learning curve on very complex issues for
10 different things. But it was so exciting.
Constitutional law is my love and my passion.
Everything I worked on, I just ate up.
Q: What were some of the most critical
cases you worked on at the ACLU?
A: My favorite case was for Victor Martin,
a client whom I still correspond with. He’s
an inmate in the prison system in North
Carolina, and a writer of urban fiction. He’s
in prison for stealing cars, and would have
been out a long time ago except he tried to
He was always getting in trouble in
prison and telling tales, and then one
of the guards said, “You’re such a good
storyteller. You ought to write.” So
he sat down and started writing. His
infraction sheet stopped growing when
he started writing.
He got transferred to Central Prison,
and this guard had it out for him. He
started giving him infractions for writing
and saying he was operating a business
in prison, since he was getting published.