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Q&A: If he had 'played ball' NC might have MLB team

Clyde Holt III is an attorney with Smith Moore Leatherwood in Raleigh. For over 30 years, Holt has concentrated his practice in government regulation, municipal zoning and environmental law. He also handles commercial real estate and development projects.
Holt is general counsel to the Centennial Authority, owner and developer of the RBC Center, and is also outside counsel to Triangle Transit. The UNC law school graduate also serves as the town attorney for Knightdale.
He previously chaired the Raleigh Civil Service Commission and Wake County Library Commission, among other affiliations.

NCLW: If you weren’t practicing law, what else would you want to do?
Holt: Baseball play-by-play announcer

NCLW: Looking back, what case did you lose that you might have won had you done something differently?
Holt: Raleigh would have professional baseball today if Tom McCormick and I had agreed to “play ball” with Miles Wolfe. Miles offered to support our efforts to bring baseball to Raleigh if we agreed to a Class A Carolina League franchise and allowed him to choose the owner. We naïvely had dreams of one day being a Major League city.

NCLW: What is the biggest problem facing the legal profession today?
Holt: Escalating starting salaries offered by national and international law firms moving into North Carolina have pressured attorneys to increase billable hours and hourly rates beyond what is sustainable over the long term.
NCLW: How has being an attorney affected your view of the world?
Holt: Hypocrisy, especially in public officials, disappoints me.

NCLW: What is the most memorable case or client you have dealt with?
Holt: I successfully defended Ben Wesley Rivers against extradition to New Jersey to face an attempted murder charge. Ten days [after] being released from jail, Ben turned in one night, and his common-law wife slit his throat with a butcher knife. He never woke up. I have always regretted winning that case.

NCLW: Who was your mentor and what important lessons did they teach you?
Holt: I had many. Wright Dixon taught me that you need not be mean or arrogant to be a successful trial lawyer.
Gale Parker and Phil Ransdell taught me to treat other lawyers the way I would like to be treated.
Bill Rouse taught me how to search a title.
Howard Manning taught me the value of main strength and awkwardness.
Buck Bunn taught me the history of Raleigh.
Dick Jones taught me how to make a living.
NCLW: How do clients find you?
Holt: Word of mouth, often my own. New clients see or hear me speak at public meetings. I benefit from recommendations from other clients and public officials. I have never done any advertising to speak of.

NCLW: Is the profession everything you thought it would be when you graduated from law school?
Holt: My grandfather and father were lawyers. I knew what I was getting into.

NCLW: Which professional organization benefits you the most?
Holt: International Municipal Lawyers Association (formerly the National Institute of Municipal Law Officers).

NCLW: Tell us something about yourself others would be surprised to find out.
Holt: I asked my future father-in-law on three separate occasions for permission to marry his daughter before he relented.

NCLW: Would you encourage your child to be a lawyer? Why or why not?
Holt: I encouraged each of them to attend law school. You learn a trade and can hang out a shingle anywhere and support your family, but law school training is invaluable whether you practice or not. You are schooled in logical thinking and problem-solving.

NCLW: How could law schools better prepare students for practice?
Holt: Invite seasoned lawyers to speak periodically on different areas of practice and explain how and why they became proficient in those areas.

NCLW: What is the best thing about your practice? The worst?
Holt: Best The ecstasy of victory! Worst Arm wrestling clients for money they owe you.

NCLW: What is the toughest decision you have had to make?
Holt: Explaining to associates that they should consider seeking opportunities elsewhere

NCLW: What is your favorite TV show, book or movie and why?
Holt: Movie “Shane.” Beautiful photography and screenplay, excellent personification of good (Alan Ladd) and evil (Jack Palance) through a child’s eyes (Brandon De Wilde).

NCLW: What question should we have asked, but didn’t? Please give the question and the answer.
Holt: You should have asked: “What, if anything, have you accomplished or contributed to in your career that has provided a lasting benefit to the community?”
Answer: I served Wake County and the City of Raleigh as chair of their Combined Library Commission, which lobbied for and then implemented the merger of 12 independent, parochial town libraries into a modern, regional system.

NCLW: What is the most unusual thing on your desk or in your office?
Holt: A framed Raleigh Times headline describing Clyde Holt as a “two-bit” lawyer. Years ago, I won a well-publicized jury trial defending a client accused of stealing 25 cents.

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