MCB VLP Volunteer Spotlight - Wendy L. Spanbauer
September 2011's Mecklenburg County Bar VLP spotlight is on Wendy L. Spanbaur of McGuire Woods.
Spanbauer volunteers her time and expertise to help individuals clear their record of criminal charges that were dismissed in hopes of allowing this person to successfully pursue gainful employment.
Although her expertise is in capital market transactions, she worked with Legal Services of Southern Piedmont to gain the necessary skills to also work in criminal law.
MCB VS: Current Employer / number of years with current employer:
WS: My first job out of law school was with Cadwalader Wickersham & Taft in 1998. I moved from CWT to Hunton & Williams January 2004 and then to McGuire Woods on August 1, 2011.
MCB VS: Area of Practice / Expertise?
WS: Secondary mortgage market transactions, including whole loan and servicing rights purchase and sale transactions, warehouse lending and repurchase facilities, and securitizations. Most recently I have provided internal legal support to the securitization trust administration business of a major financial institution.
MCB VS: Law School / Law School Graduation Year?
WS: UNC Chapel Hill/1998
MCB VS: How did you get involved with pro bono criminal records expungement?
WS: The pro bono committee of my then current firm reached out to Legal Aid/LSSP to find out how we could help and they identified criminal records expungement matters as a growing need.
MCB VS: What is a typical case like?
WS: A typical case involves an individual who has something appearing on their criminal record that is limiting their employment opportunities. Often, the item appearing is something that they were falsely accused of or something that was truly a youthful indiscretion. I think that many people do not realize that even if a charge is found to have no merit and is dismissed, the charge stays on your criminal record unless and until it is formally expunged.
MCB VS: How many of these type of pro bono cases do you typically handle at one time?
WS: I typically have between 3 and 10 cases active at any one time.
MCB VS: How do you prepare for handling such cases / issues?
WS: The process is statutory and very form driven so there is not much advance preparation that can be done. LSSP identifies the clients and then I contact them to discuss the items on their record that qualify for expungement and get the identification information necessary to complete the request forms. I complete and submit the paperwork and notify the clients and provide copies of expungement orders when they are granted. The process takes about 6 months.
MCB VS: Did you participate in any particular training so that you could handle these cases?
WS: I participated in a training class conducted by staff attorneys from LSSP.
MCB VS: What is your hope for the future with regard to these cases / issue?
WS: The ideal would be for young people to learn that all of their actions have potential consequences and to make more thoughtful and deliberate choices about the company they keep and the types of situations they get involved with. Short of that, my hope is just to continue to be able to help motivated individuals get the clean slate that they need to be able to put mistakes behind them and get meaningful employment that will allow them to continue on a productive path.
MCB VS: How can the Mecklenburg County legal community help with similar cases / this issue?
WS: There are so many opportunities to get involved by volunteering with Legal Aid of North Carolina and Legal Services of Southern Piedmont, regardless of your subject matter expertise. I am a capital markets transactional attorney working on essentially criminal law matters! LSSP will provide the necessary training and subject matter experts. You have only to provide some of your time and a willingness to lend a hand.
MCB VS: What is the best advice you've received during your legal career?
WS: "Don't be stupid." This is something that one of my first supervising partners told me, and I'll admit to not appreciating it very much at the time, but I have never forgotten it and despite the blunt delivery, it is a reminder to stay focused, be thorough and keep sight of the big picture as well as the task level details of any given project.
MCB VS: What is the most challenging part of your career?
WS: Many of the transactions that I have been fortunate to work on have been substantively very complex, but the biggest challenge by far is managing the competing demands of a big firm practice and an active family.
MCB VS: What is your favorite part of your current job?
WS: My favorite part of my job is the people. The deals are complicated and the completion of them often stressful, but the opportunity to interact with and learn from the immensely talented and smart individuals who participate on both the legal and business sides of these transactions is incredibly rewarding.
If you are interested in volunteering your time, please contact the MCB Lawyers as Volunteers Advisory Committee Chair Christopher J. Tucci at Christopher.firstname.lastname@example.org.