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I recently had an opportunity to speak with Kimberly R. Coward, a board certified specialist in residential real property law since 2006, who practices at Coward Hicks & Siler, PA in Cashiers. Kim is an active member of both the North Carolina State Bar and the North Carolina Bar Association. For more than a decade, Kim has supported specialty certification in North Carolina through her dedication to the North Carolina State Bar Board of Legal Specialization. Kim recently completed her term as chair of the Board of Legal Specialization, and she previously served as a member and chair of the Real Property Law Specialty Committee. In further service to the State Bar, Kim was an advisory member to the Ethics Committee from 2014 to 2020.

Q: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your background?

I am a transplant from the great state of Iowa (that is a test for all readers…do you know where Iowa is??) who moved to Chapel Hill for law school in 1988, met my husband Bill Coward there, and have practiced law in Cashiers, NC, since 1988 when I was 25. It has been a joy to have the same job for so many years, which really helps in the specialization department. I have two married children, two grandkidlets, and have all kinds of things I enjoy doing. Not too impressive, but the fun and challenge of a busy real estate practice has been my full-time career and passion for 34 years.

Q: You recently finished your term as chair and member of the Board of Legal Specialization. What will you miss most about serving on the board?

Everything about it. The people, the State Bar staff, the thought-provoking issues, and the professionalism of all involved. This is a group that takes great pride (yet remains very humble) in serving the public by providing a means by which worthy lawyers become certified specialists. It has been one of the highlights of my law career.

Q: What was the most challenging and/or rewarding part of serving on the Board of Legal Specialization?

COVID, because we ended up not meeting in person, which was so important. The most rewarding part was working on new specializations as well as the annual meetings where discussions between the board and the committee chairs helped create and improve the entire specialization process.

Q: What was your focus or initiative during your term as chair of the board?

My unfulfilled focus is to take the program on the road, and I’d still like to participate in it. With COVID travel restrictions, we didn’t get to have smaller meetings in the “outposts” of the state. I believe that there are many lawyers who qualify that are either unaware of the program or not familiar with the process. I am hopeful to drag [State Bar specialization staff members] Lanice, Denise, and Brian to the netherworlds of this large state to share the joy of specialization with many who otherwise would not be exposed to it in person.

Q: What is your next big professional goal?

I’m old. Survival until retirement perhaps? Actually, I’m not sure. I fully enjoyed work with the State Bar staff and membership and am hopeful that I can be helpful in some way in the future.

Q: Name the top three benefits you’ve experienced as a result of becoming a specialist.

1. I am more confident in my work. Studying does help! It keeps us on our toes. That is one of the beauties of our program.

2. Sharing the love of the law with other specialists. It is fun to be around others who dive in and conquer the test and take pride in doing so.

3. A sense of accomplishment in taking a test and passing it. Seriously. It was not the easiest thing to do.

Q: If you were stranded on a desert island, what would be your three must have items?

A Bible, a dog, and sunscreen.

Q: What is the single best piece of advice you ever received?

Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry… (James 1:19). That really helps in the practice of law as well as in life.

Q: How do you like to spend your free time?

Training my German shepherd dogs, golfing or exercising in any way, cooking, shopping, drinking fine wine, and otherwise DOING something. I am unable to sit still for any amount of time.

Q: What one word best describes you?

Real. What you see is what you get.