Catching up with Smarty Mom: Rebecca Wofford
Rebecca Wofford is a mover and shaker. When I first met her a few years ago, I was so amazed by her passion when she started The Lunch Project. This woman literally moved mountains to feed the children of Tanzania. What started as a work trip ended in a life-changing decision to put her law endeavors on hold and help feed children halfway across the world. We’re happy to report that The Lunch Project is now feeding 1,800 children lunch every day! WOW!
Now, Rebecca is back to her other passion of law and is focusing on what she loves, family law. Even better, she partnered with her hubby and they are providing families personalized law representation and will work together to give families the best solutions.
We’re excited to announce that Rebecca will be writing a 3-part series on CSP, to help our readers navigate the divorce process. Nobody wants to go through this, but when this is the best option for you, we’re certain you’d want Rebecca Wofford and crew in your court.
Let’s catch up with Rebecca!
Rebecca’s Smarty Mom Stats:
Mom of: Sam, age 13 and Catie, age 12
Years married: It will be 20 years this August!
Years in Charlotte: 19 years
Hoood: Selwyn/Myers Park
Hometown: Milton, WV (home of Blenko glass, the Moutaineer Opry House and really good people)
Occupation: Family Law Attorney/Partner – Wofford Law, PLLC and Founder of The Lunch Project
In our first Smarty interview, you were just launching The Lunch Project. Tell us how this is going.
The Lunch Project is doing really well and growing thanks to all of the support we have received from Charlotte area families and beyond. We are now fully supporting two school lunch programs 5 days a week; which means 1,800 kids are served a hot meal at school, cooked by their mamas and sourced from local farmers, every single day they attend school. Lemanyata Primary School and Engorika Primary School are located in Tanzania, East Africa and consist of first generation children attending public school. These children have also impacted children here through TLP’s Global Empathy Education program we offer to elementary schools throughout Charlotte. More and more schools, families and children are craving a program that transcends barriers, connects kids to kids on the other side of the globe, helps them learn about cultural similarities and differences in a positive way and nurtures the incredibly important soft skill of empathy, i.e. the ability to walk in another kid’s shoes or see something from his or her perspective and understand it.
Your latest endeavors brought you back to your attorney roots with your new law firm, Wofford Family Law. Tell us about that.
My husband and I have been connected to the law in many different ways for 20 years – either in practice, teaching law students, or through volunteer pro bono work – but had never practiced together until this year. My husband has been a family law attorney for most of his career and is a Family Law Specialist, Certified Mediator and litigator. When I left the law school in 2013 and we had hired an Executive Director for the Lunch Project, I wanted to return to law practice but not in the same way I had practiced law prior to teaching. Teaching law students, parenting two children, and founding The Lunch Project has made me a different person than the litigator I used to be. Because of this, not only did I go into law practice with my husband at Wofford Law, PLLC but I transitioned out of courtroom litigation and into collaborative law as the way in which I will represent our family law clients.
Why do you think collaborative law is so important to families going through a divorce?
When I went through training to become a Collaborative Law Attorney, the first word the trainer visually presented to us with “empathy.” I literally looked around the room to see if anyone else had been blown away by this. This was the backbone of The Lunch Project. Could is also be the backbone of my legal career? Law was supposed to be about being adversarial and fighting with the other side, right? This is definitely true for some families going through divorce, custody, support and property distribution but it is not true for all families. Most people going through this process, including parents of children, want to settle the components of their divorce amicably. Collaborative law helps them do this.
What first legal steps should one take if she is seriously contemplating divorce?
A consultation with a lawyer is important. There is a self-serve center in our courthouse but very few people want to or can navigate the divorce process alone and you are automatically in court. If the collaborative process is something she would like to consider, then I would recommend that she review the attorney profiles on the Charlotte Collaborative Divorce Professionals website, which can be found at www.charlottecollaborativedivorce.org, contact a lawyer included in this group of professionals and consult with him or her.
What are the biggest mistakes couples make when they first go through the divorce process?
They begin treating each other as adversaries immediately. They don’t think from the other person’s perspective. They demonstrate this adversarial conduct in front of their children.
What are some things that are unique to NC that one should know with regard to divorce and child custody?
North Carolina requires a one-year separation prior to divorce. All other aspects including child custody, child support, spousal support and property distribution can be handled collaboratively during the one year of separation.
Moving on to lighter things…
You and your hubby are in biz together – what’s your favorite part about that? Least favorite part?
He is so quiet in the office! He is a fierce litigator in court so maybe I assumed he would be that way in the office to. But he’s definitely not. He is very easy to work with. We have different strengths. I love drafting and he loves courtroom work. We both enjoy counseling and working with clients to reach their goals. Although I am an advocate for the collaborative process, there are clients who need to work through the court system to reach their goals and he is very experienced litigator, so when my clients have this need, I can bring him in on the case. This is a benefit to me and to our clients.
Who makes the coffee in the office?
We have not one but two Keurigs, so everyone (clients and attorneys) can make their own coffee. It’s a win, win! I do water the plants including his so they will live.
Favorite lunch spot?
The Mayo Bird. It is on East Blvd. so we can walk to it, the chicken salad is fantastic and this restaurant is locally owned by a fellow philanthropist, Dee Dee Mills, so you can round up your change and it is donated to Behailu Academy which offers afterschool support for teens in need. So, you get a good lunch and you get to do good for the community. Another win, win!
What is your favorite way to stay in shape?
Oh sister. Having active middle school kids, running a full-time law office and supporting the work of The Lunch Project as much as I can, means I am not in shape. But I am working on it. I do walk as much as I can, visit the YMCA as often as I can and have the goal of getting back to yoga. I will also attempt to run/walk in Run Jen Run’s 5k coming up.
Things you are currently saying that you never thought you’d say?
I love what I do most days. Everyone says, isn’t being a family law attorney a really hard job? Yes, it is. And, if you are not called or prepared to help people during one of the most difficult times in their lives, it is not for you. But, like a lot of our smarty moms, I am built to do hard things. I have also figured out that the key is finding a way to do these hard things with authenticity and integrity. Collaborative law in a law practice with my husband is what works best for me.
Best part about being a working mom?
My kids are here with us at the Woffice (our nickname for our law office) every day after school. Luckily, the house we work in on East Blvd. has a loft upstairs and they can be separate from our work (and not hear conversations with our clients) but nearby doing their homework. They bear witness to the fact that their parents work together inside and outside the home for our family. That we divide and conquer each day and that it is required for the team to function. That they have to help by making their lunches and doing their chores for our family to function well. We are part of each other’s tribe and that means we support each other (as our friends in Tanzania support one another.) That we do our best each day to be a part of our community and help our community – our bigger tribe. I think this is what moms who work inside or outside the home all strive for.