This article originally appeared in the May 2021 issue of North Carolina Lawyer Magazine. Read the complete article written by Russell Rawlings and view all NC Lawyer issues at ncbar.org/nc-lawyer.
They sat anxiously in the courtroom of the Justice Building, springing to their feet as the clerk banged her gavel and proclaimed “oyez, oyez, oyez.” Their eyes widened as Chief Justice Sarah Parker and Justice Mark D. Martin of the Supreme Court and Judges Douglas McCullough and Robin Hudson of the Court of Appeals emerged in their black robes and took their seats.
They looked like a couple of teenagers, barely old enough to drive, as they waited to argue their case.
Alyssa Kisby (now Kisby-Meadows, left), who had never even been to the state capital, and Laura Paschall were appearing in the finals of the 2006 Moot Court Competition, an event coordinated by the Young Lawyers Division in conjunction with the North Carolina Bar Association and North Carolina Bar Foundation’s annual observance of Law Day. Kisby-Meadows was a junior and Paschall was a sophomore.
Aside from stomping her foot (Kisby-Meadows) and grasping the lectern (Paschall), the western champions from Highland School of Technology in Gastonia came across as a pair of seasoned pros. Their names were called early that afternoon as champions, a feat they repeated a year later when Kisby-Meadows was a senior and Paschall was a junior.
Their story is not necessarily unusual, in that many of their predecessors and successors have also gone on to successful careers following their participation in Law Day competition. Chief Judge Donna Stroud of the N.C. Court of Appeals even has a plaque hanging in her office commemorating her achievement as the winner of the event’s first essay contest in 1982.
Kisby-Meadows went on to become a lawyer and has been practicing in Gastonia since 2014, at first with Mullen Holland & Cooper and now with Heritage Law. She is a graduate of Duke University and the University of North Carolina School of Law, married and the mother of two. And a member of the North Carolina Bar Association.
Paschall (left, with her husband, Brad) is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and UNC School of Medicine, and presently completing her second year as a resident in the psychiatry program at Atrium Health in Charlotte. Although her mom, Nancy Paschall, is an attorney and longtime NCBA member, Laura set her sights on the medical field at an early age.
Paschall and Kisby-Meadows scarcely knew each other when they were first paired together in 2005.
“A friend wanted to participate in Moot Court in 2005,” Kisby-Meadows recalled. “It was the first year our school was going to participate in Moot Court, and she talked me into attending the interest meeting. I learned about what would be involved and thought, ‘Why not, this would be something fun to do.’ I was paired with Laura Paschall that year.
“Neither of us had participated before, so it was a real learning experience for us. Not just seeing how the court system works but also reading the cases and understanding how to interpret the law, apply the law, and inform the argument. It was completely different from anything we had done previously in high school. It was a fun experience getting to branch out into something different than the norm.”
The future two-time state champions ran into stiff competition from the outset.
“The first year we had great county involvement,” Kisby-Meadows said. “Almost every high school had a team involved in the Gaston County competition. Most high schools had two teams, including Highland.
“We made it through the first level at our county competition, but then Judge Caldwell’s daughter was one half of the next team we were to compete against. Needless to say, that year we didn’t make it any further than county.”
Senior Resident Superior Court Judge Jesse Caldwell III, she added, later helped their coaches prepare them for regional and state competition, when they were coached by teacher Patty Poston and Gastonia attorney Jason Shoemaker.
“They spent a lot of time with us,” Paschall recalled. “I really appreciated it in high school, but I have a different level of appreciation for it now that I am out in the working world. What a sacrifice it was for them to give us all of those hours.”
Their commitment, and the competition itself, also made a lasting impression on Paschall.