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Several years ago I made the most difficult decision of my life. I left behind a 10-year legal career and a very successful litigation practice to see if I could become a journalist. No experience. No connections. Just a dream.
What brought me to that point? After four years of college followed by three years of law school, I had settled into a litigation practice, first with a large defense firm defending Big Tobacco, then with a small plaintiffs firm suing Big Pharma. It was a decent gig, but a little lacking on the excitement and real-world adventure. I began to have a serious case of the “what if’s” and “what might have been’s.” How to cure that? Buy the ticket. Take the ride. So after ten years of practicing law, I left North Carolina and set out into the world to become a writer. It wasn’t exactly Michael Jordan retiring from the Bulls to play baseball, but you get the picture.
At the forever-young age of 35, I talked my way into a job at BusinessWeek Magazine in Atlanta. The position paid peanuts and consisted largely of making coffee, setting up the fax machine, and listening to the bureau chief parse the finer points of Burger King and Circuit City stock. Eventually I managed to sneak a couple of stories into the magazine about immigration, the airline industry, and the post-Katrina mess in the New Orleans school system. I was hooked. I realized what I considered my most difficult decision had also become one of my best.
I moved with my wife to New York to study journalism at Columbia University, where I was an inaugural member of the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism. I was hired out of school by 60 Minutes, where I worked my way up to producing stories for Steve Kroft, Scott Pelley, Lesley Stahl, Bob Simon, and Lara Logan. My stories included an Emmy Award-winning investigation into the relationship between mass shootings and severe mental illness, an examination of the cyber weapon launched to sabotage the Iranian nuclear development program, and one of the first in-depth stories on high-frequency trading and its impact on stock market volatility. At 60 Minutes Sports I produced stories which included an investigation into the daily fantasy sports industry, former Duke lacrosse coach Mike Pressler’s only television interview about the Duke rape scandal and its aftermath, a report on trafficking young soccer players out of Africa, and Clemson football coach Dabo Sweeney’s only in-depth television interview leading up to the Tigers’ 2016 championship season.
I also produced short documentary stories for a new broadcast news magazine at CBS News, CBSN: On Assignment, including a profile on Alexei Navalny, a Russian anti-corruption crusader who put his life on the line to challenge the power of Vladimir Putin, an on-the-ground report on gun and gang violence in South Chicago, and an examination of the continuing violence against journalists covering the drug cartels in Mexico.
In more than a decade of producing stories for 60 Minutes, 60 Minutes Sports, and CBSN On Assignment, I traveled the world reporting and producing stories on economics, politics, war, and sports. In what seems like a short period of time, I experienced a lifetime of adventure, finding everything I sought when I left my law practice. But while this was happening, my family was growing. After ten years in New York, we missed North Carolina, and I realized I missed the courtroom.
So here I am, back from the Birmingham Barons – I mean 60 Minutes – glad to be back in the courtroom, and back in North Carolina.