Five questions for Rob Harrington
Rob Harrington spends most of his time as a corporate litigation lawyer at Robinson, Bradshaw & Hinson PA of Charlotte, and a prominent one, at that. Harrington chairs the company’s litigation department, and has represented clients for nearly 30 years. He’s previously served as president of the Mecklenburg County Bar, chair of the board of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and as a board member of both the N.C. Bar Association and Legal Aid of N.C.
In 2017, Harrington won the Lawyer of the Year award from North Carolina Lawyers Weekly. In addition, he’s also won the Duke Law Alumni Association Charles S. Murphy Award for Achievement in Public Service in 2012, the Mecklenburg County Bar Julius L. Chambers Diversity Champion Award in 2015, and many more.
But law isn’t the only thing he’s interested in: On July 1, Harrington began his two-year term as chair of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library’s board of trustees. Harrington, who previously served as Arts and Science Council board chair, recently answered a few questions about his long career in law and his new role at the library system.
What attracted you to law and how did you first get involved in that world?
I chose law because I knew it would provide consistent intellectual challenge, the chance to help clients work through important and difficult problems and, additionally, the skills and opportunities to serve the community. My first job in a law firm was as a summer intern at my brother-in-law’s firm in New Orleans. I practiced law in New Orleans and Washington, D.C. for several years before our family moved to Charlotte, and I joined Robinson Bradshaw in June 1999.
What are some of the biggest challenges you face as a business litigator?
When I was just starting my career, a judge in Louisiana was the first person I heard use Justice Story’s expression, “The law is a jealous mistress.” The practice is inherently demanding. And, while 24-hour internet connection and electronic communications provide great opportunities, they also present challenges for lawyers and our clients. All of that said, fighting for clients and counseling them through complex disputes remain very rewarding – and invigorating – after many years of practice.
What made you want to get involved in the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library?
I grew up in Florence, South Carolina, spending a lot of time in the local public library. It was a window to a world of knowledge in every area I could imagine. At our Charlotte Mecklenburg Library, we’ve begun to use the term “Public Commons” to describe the library. It’s a place where residents from across the community, younger and older, come together for common reasons. The public library is a place of educational opportunity and, given our digital literacy and job search resources, increasingly a place of economic opportunity. Libraries are essential to our communities, and I am committed to building an even stronger system.
What are some of your goals for your two-year term as board chair?
The Charlotte Mecklenburg Library is in the planning and design phase for a new main library. It will symbolize the Public Commons concept and serve as a principal common space for Mecklenburg County residents and visitors. Over the next two years, our staff, board and consultants will push forward toward construction of this essential community asset. The library system is generously funded by Mecklenburg County, our principal funding partner. Over the next two years, we look forward to expanding other funding sources for the new main library and across the system to bolster the sustainability of the library system. And we will continue to deliver essential services to our library customers in every part of the county.
What does the future of libraries look like?
Everyone can find information and services at the library. While paper books remain in great demand, customers increasingly access resources in digital format. Through the library, people are able to access these resources with trained, knowledgeable staff assistance. Beyond providing information and services, the library should be a place where people use these resources for individual growth, to connect with others and to participate in the community.