Meet This Month's LAWYER OF ATLANTIC COUNTY #LOAC
Modeled after the infamous HUMANS OF NEW YORK (#HONY) Site, the ACBA Young Lawyers Division has started LAWYERS OF ATLANTIC COUNTY (#LOAC) to foster a deeper, more personal connection among members of the Atlantic County Bar. Each month, ACBA Young Lawyers Division chooses a different attorney to be featured here as that month's Lawyer of Atlantic County. Attorneys are nominated by members of the ACBA and YLD.; any attorney who is nominated by not chosen for a given month will automatically be put back into the running for each subsequent month until chosen. Interview questions focus on the attorney's professional and life experiences.
Sheila F. Hughes, Esq.
CooperLevenson, Attorneys at Law
Atlantic County Bar Association, Secretary Dec. 14, 2015
By: Daniel Solt, Esq.
Sheila Hughes was chosen by the Young Lawyers Division to be featured as the attorney of the month, and I had the pleasure of sitting down with her on Monday, December 7, 2015, to get to know her better. I originally met Sheila when I became involved in the Young Lawyers Division as a judicial law clerk in 2011, and I quickly realized she took pride in her involvement with the Atlantic County Bar Association. Four years later, Sheila has moved on from the YLD and now sits on the Executive Board of the ACBA, but her influence and guidance will remain with the YLD for many years to come.
Alright Sheila, let’s get the basics out of the way for those few people who might not know you already. Please give me an overview of your legal career?
I am an Associate at Cooper Levenson in the Commercial Litigation Department. I have worked there for seven years. Prior to starting at Cooper Levenson, I was a Judicial Law Clerk for Judge Nelson Johnson.
When I gave you some options on where we could meet for this interview, you chose the Baltimore Grill, which was the only option I gave you in Atlantic City. Why was I not surprised by your choice?
I love Atlantic City! I live in AC, I work in AC, the social networking organization I co-founded is based in AC. If given the choice, I will always ask people to meet me in AC!
Tell me about the social networking organization?
SoPro, AC is a social professional networking organization that offers low-key opportunities for networking for young professionals. We have been operating for 3 ½ years and put on an event almost every month at various venues in Atlantic City and the surrounding area. We have taken the opportunity to highlight the city and also give the next generation a chance to make strong connections for success. It's a lot of fun- as you can attest.
Sheila is one of the co-founders of SoPro, AC, the fast growing
social professional networking group in South Jersey!
I think starting that organization was a great idea. You are very active relative to most young attorneys. Who has influenced you the most in your professional career?
Judge Nelson Johnson, on many levels. He is very passionate about the law. He said he knew he wanted to be a lawyer when he was five years old. It is refreshing to know someone who has always loved the law and being in the trenches. Many people practice law and get worn out by it, but the Judge showed me early on how important it is to love what you do.
Could you see yourself being a judge?
Yes, absolutely. But I have no idea if that is in my future. As a law clerk I loved making the decisions though.
How did you get so involved in the ACBA, and what made you stick around?
I started my involvement when I was a law clerk. There was an open invitation to help with the Children’s
Holiday Party that used to be run by a few members of the ACBA each year. I ended up being somewhat in
charge of the clerks for my year. I fell in love with that party. It was my favorite day of the year. In the coming years I suggested the YLD shoulder the responsibility of the party each year. I think it is important as a young attorney to get involved in the community and away from your desk every once in awhile. Why did I stay around after that? I specifically remember Pat Sampoli, who was the ACBA President that year, sending me a hand written note thanking me for my efforts. I thought it was cool that the President of the Bar Association took time to do that for me. It was at that point that I realized that Atlantic County offered something special for people who want to be involved.
That reminds me of a story I heard a court clerk tell about Judge Marczyk. It was one of the first times Judge Marczyk came down to Cape May for a civil division trial and the clerk had been in the court room all day. The next day Judge Marczyk was back in Atlantic City and the court clerk received an email from him thanking him for clerking for him the day before. The clerk loves to tell that story, and he is now a Judge Marczyk fan for life.
These are small actions made by Pat Sampoli and Judge Marczyk, but they made a big impact on both of our lives. It is crazy that in four years I will be President of the ACBA.
The Honorable Sheila F. Hughes has a nice ring to it!
"Sheila will be President of the Atlantic County Bar Association for the 2019-2020 Term
Make sure you send lots of thank you notes! What qualities do you look for in the people you spend time with?
I look for people who have a good sense of humor and don’t take themselves too seriously. Also, people who can put up with my sarcasm. They should know that the more sarcastic I am with them, the more I love them. It’s also important for the people to like to do things and not sit at home every night.
Like people that fly halfway across the world to climb a mountain?
Was making the decision to go to Africa and climb Mt. Kilimanjaro a difficult one?
No, I made the decision about 45 seconds after I heard about the opportunity. I never wavered from my decision in the months leading up to the trip. The doubt only finally hit me after I was in Africa on the day we boarded the bus to head to the mountain. Truthfully, I never had any real concept of what I was about to do until we drove past the other mountain near Kilimanjaro, which is a "smaller" mountain, and I remember thinking if this is the "smaller" mountain I might be in some trouble.
What inspires you?
I am most inspired by people who are really good at something, whether it is their business or a sport or some other thing. I am always impressed by people who can dedicate themselves to something and get really, really good at it. I am still looking for what I am really really good at!
"In January 2015, Sheila climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa!
Now we are adults and most of us are still searching for that greatness. I can relate to that. At what age do you feel you became an adult?
When I was 20 years old. I was going to school in Belgium. I was there for September 11th. At some point amongst the chaos of the days following that event I felt really for the first time like an adult. I realized I should not take my opportunity to travel for granted. I also realized I was grown up enough to have my own thoughts and feelings about what was going on instead of just listening to the hysteria of some of my housemates.
If you won a big lottery tomorrow, what is the first thing you would do?
I would pay off my law school loans! I would sign right on to my loan servicing website and pay it right off!
I think I would do that very same thing. You like to travel, where would you visit first with your new found wealth?
New Zealand. I have very few things on my bucket list. New Zealand has always been a place that I want to visit. I want to experience the culture and beauty of that part of the world. I also want to chase the Northern Lights, specifically in Iceland. Maybe that trip will happen in the near future!?!?
Want to join Sheila on her next adventure with the Military Assistance Project?
From August 6th-10th (2016), Sheila will row, hike and swim the Rogue River over a 4 day period on a charity paddle to raise funds to help provide legal and housing services to Philadelphia Veterans and military personnel. Sheila will be joined by Chair, Julie Nugent.
Not able to join her? You can donate to her fundraising page by clicking HERE.
Want to nominate a local attorney for the next edition of #LOAC?
Message us below!
Lawyers of Atlantic County
was created in 2015 by Fahran Zahid