Making a Difference in N.C.: Dana Simpson '00

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Read the full article in the fall-winter 2013 issue of Carolina Law.

Dana Simpson

Dana Simpson '00 doesn’t hold public office, but he knows a lot of people who do.

Simpson, a health care and government affairs attorney at Smith Anderson in Raleigh, spends a lot of time working as a lobbyist in the state legislature. He’s pretty good at it, too.

In the 2011-2012 legislative session, Simpson was ranked the most effective lobbyist in the state by the nonpartisan N.C. Center for Public Policy Research. The policy group’s frequently cited ranking is a result of a survey of state legislators, other lobbyists, and journalists to determine the most influential lobbyists among the hundreds registered with the state.

Simpson’s influence and knowledge of the legislative process enables him to help organizations and causes close to his heart.

“In addition to working on specific issues for our law firm’s clients, I am fortunate to be able to work on other public policy issues that are important for our state or our community,” he says.

In 2011, for example, the legislature cut state funding to the Governor’s School, a summer residential program for gifted N.C. high school students begun in the early 1960s. Simpson and other Carolina Law alumni are among those who attended the school. Alumni raised enough private funds to keep the school open that summer. But a lobbying effort by Simpson and other alumni the next year persuaded lawmakers to restore funding to the program in 2012.

“We were able to explain to legislators that the Governor’s School is an important asset to this state that needs to be retained going forward,” Simpson says. “Understanding the budget process certainly helped us make the case for the school. Thankfully, the legislative leadership listened and agreed to restore funding.”

Simpson has advocated for other organizations, including UNC-Chapel Hill. He has just finished a four-year term on Carolina’s Board of Visitors, where he chaired the External Affairs Committee. And he just joined the UNC General Alumni Association’s board of directors.

“We have a duty to educate the many new legislators in Raleigh about the importance of maintaining the state’s 200-year commitment to having a world-class higher education system,” Simpson says.

Simpson’s experience at Carolina Law strengthened his focus on public service.

“My experience at Carolina, both undergraduate and law school, opened my eyes to the importance of public service,” he says. “Giving back to the community and engaging in public policy issues was encouraged at the law school.”

As co-chair for recruiting at Smith Anderson, Simpson is looking for young lawyers who share those values.

“When we recruit to the law firm, we seek individuals who are great people and great lawyers,” he says. “We want well-rounded lawyers who are going to be active in the community.”

-January 8, 2014

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