MURPHY— Jim Holloway has retired from Legal Aid of North Carolina after serving continuously in legal aid work in the state for more than 40 years, most recently as senior managing attorney in Legal Aid NC’s Murphy and Hayesville offices.
Holloway is well known in the community at large in Western North Carolina. Last month, the Clay County Progress published a story about his retirement on its front page, with quotes of praise from everyone from the Clay County Manager to a former client, social workers, and an educator.
Why did he stay in legal aid work for his whole career, when some young attorneys submit to a time of public service and then are attracted elsewhere?
Holloway said it goes back to core values and how you choose to spend your time. “It sounds sappy, but I learned a lot in Sunday school, and I believed it,” Holloway said.
Holloway said that when he graduated from law school in 1975, he “wasn’t of a mind to start a traditional law practice.” Instead, he kicked off his career by serving a year as a VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) attorney in the Anchorage office of Alaska Legal Services. For Holloway, Alaska also held the lure of adventure. He developed a love of cross-country skiing there.
After his VISTA year he continued working for Alaska Legal Services, serving the native population in the Bristol Bay area, which consisted of small villages and towns reachable mainly by small plane.
In 1978, Holloway returned to his native North Carolina and joined Eastern Cherokee Legal Services as a staff attorney. That organization later became Western North Carolina Legal Services (WNCLS), the predecessor of the Sylva office of Legal Aid of North Carolina. Holloway achieved promotion to co-executive director of WNCLS.
Larry Nestler, currently a part-time senior managing attorney for Legal Aid NC, worked together with Holloway every day “for a long time,” according to Nestler.
As Nestler tells it, Holloway became an expert in complex cases, including jurisdiction relating to tribal affairs, truth in lending, and many kinds of consumer cases. Nestler remarked that Holloway was extremely thorough on behalf of every client, whether the case was complex or not, and whether the monetary amount in controversy was large or small.
“Jim would not have been able to practice that way if he were in private practice, where greater resources go to the potentially larger pay-offs,” Nestler said.
In the courtroom, Holloway was very calm and collected “even when opposing counsel was acting like a rear-end,” according to Nestler. Nestler said he would get irritated and would urge Holloway not to let the asininity go. But Holloway would always handle it calmly. He also had a reputation among his co-workers for helping clients deemed difficult by most others on staff.
In 2002, Holloway secured funding to open a Legal Aid NC office in Hayesville. From that office he served Legal Aid’s mission in Clay, Cherokee, and Graham counties for almost 20 years.
Holloway continually developed his expertise in consumer law and became a resource on the subject for Legal Aid attorneys across the state. According to Nestler, Holloway spent long nights doing research and built long pleadings that left nothing to chance. “He would wear the other side out,” Nestler said. “They would settle, and Jim’s client would get almost everything demanded.”
In 2017, the North Carolina Bar Association awarded Holloway the Deborah Greenblatt Outstanding Legal Services Attorney Award. Judge Donna Forga of the 30th Judicial District wrote one of the recommendation letters in support of the award. Forga recalled that Holloway had mentored her. She said that she, now as a judge, enjoyed the opportunity to see Holloway accompany young attorneys into her courtroom, offering tips and directions “while modeling patience and professionalism in dealing with difficult opposing counsel.”
Nestler doesn’t foresee Holloway actually “retiring” in the sense of not working. “People will still call him for help, and so he will,” said Nestler.
Holloway confessed he doesn’t know right now what his retirement will look like. “It’s pretty darned nice not to have any responsibilities other than Medicare, insurance, and so on,” he said. He said that for the time being, he plans to get in touch with old friends and spend more time with his grandchildren.
Legal Aid of North Carolina is a statewide, nonprofit law firm that provides free legal services in civil matters to low-income people in order to ensure equal access to justice and to remove legal barriers to economic opportunity. Learn more at legalaidnc.org. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube. Need legal help? Call 1-866-219-5262 (toll-free) or apply online at legalaidnc.org/apply.
Our Smoky Mountain Offices, located in Sylva and Murphy, serve Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Jackson, Macon and Swain counties, and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Territory. Follow us on Facebook.
Bryan Alexander, Legal Aid of North Carolina, 404-273-3104, email@example.com