Ryan McCollum, NCAJ NEXT Leadership Program

February 14, 2024

Ryan McCollum is one of the 13 members of the NCAJ NEXT Leadership Program class of 2024. The program identifies the state’s emerging trial lawyer leaders. 

Lives in: Apex

Law degree from: Campbell University Norman Adrian Wiggins School of Law

Works as: Litigation Attorney at Whitley Law Firm

Legal association involvement: I am a member of NCAJ, the North Carolina 10thJudicial District Bar, and the North Carolina Bar Association. In each of these organizations I am active in the New Lawyer Division sections and make a deliberate effort to attend events to build my legal network. As a first-generation college graduate, these events are critical for me to build a network in the legal community. I have also attended CLE events sponsored by all three organizations.

Why are the ideas of civil and criminal justice important to you?

Justice is about equity, and both the civil and criminal justice systems are far from equitable. Whether it is an indigent defendant going against the full weight of the federal government in a criminal matter, or a civil plaintiff attempting to negotiate her claim with a multi-million-dollar insurance company, both systems are stacked against “the little guy.” Both systems cater to the power players at the top as opposed to the individual people who are forced to live within them. No matter what path you take as an attorney, you are moving to “balance the scales” in one direction or another–and it is important for me to work on behalf of the underdogs and attempt to make our justice systems more equitable for all.

What’s your vision for the future of NCAJ?

From the recent battle over partisan gerrymandering to the overturning of Roe v. Wade and the repeal of affirmative action, it is clear that our civil rights are never 100% secure. There will always be forces–often led by other attorneys–that will seek to jeopardize those rights. I see NCAJ currently at the forefront of those battles in our State and know that it will also be there in the battles to come–which is also where I want to be.

Away from work …

I’ve had the great fortune of making friends from all over the country while I was in the Army. My favorite hobby is traveling to visit those friends with my wife, Emilee. When I’m not traveling, I enjoy playing guitar, grilling and smoking BBQ, and hiking with my rescue dog, Hoss.