Lori Holshouser '80
Many professional networks have someone known as “the connector” – someone at the hub of it all who seems to know everyone and exactly where to direct a colleague or friend.
For many in the Duke Law community, Lori Terens Holshouser is just that person.
Over her 30 years in the legal profession, Holshouser, the current Law Alumni Association president, has developed many lasting connections through her work with various Duke alumni groups, Florida Bar committees, and other volunteer activities, and is generous about sharing them.
“I have seen students, alumni, and fellow LAA members reach out to her for advice and guidance,” said John DeGroote ’90, LAA vice president. “Naturally, she is more than happy to respond with her perspective — which I cherish in its own right — but more often than not she responds with more. ‘I know a lawyer in Tallahassee that may be able to help you,’ ‘I have a classmate who practices in that area,’ and ‘I have some friends at that firm and can make a call for you’ are all things I have heard her say. She delivers.”
Holshouser acknowledges being a natural connector.
“I’ve been fortunate to have the opportunity to serve in a number of different leadership capacities,” she said. “From those opportunities, I have met a lot of people and just thoroughly enjoyed developing those relationships.”
Holshouser hadn’t always planned for a career in law. While pursuing a public policy major as a Duke undergrad, she took a communications law and policy seminar with Duke Law professor David Lange and was first introduced to the idea.
“I remember there was one specific day that I was in David Lange’s office talking to him about a paper I wrote and he looked at me and said, ‘I think you should go to law school and become a lawyer.’ So that was the first time I considered doing so,” Holshouser said.
And that’s not the only way Lange has influenced major aspects of Holshouser’s life.
“On the night her 1L class assembled for a convocation party, I introduced her to Eric Holshouser ’80, who was also in that class,” Lange said. “Well, as Rick says in ‘Casablanca,’ that was the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Lori and Eric married later and I believe she still gives me some credit for introducing her to her future husband.”
And she does.
“He introduced us and the rest is history,” Holshouser said. “You just never know.”
After graduating from Duke Law, Holshouser moved to Palm Beach, Fla., to clerk for a state appellate judge.
“As a law student I did not know what area I wanted to go into, but immediately after law school I really wanted to work for a judge,” she said. “I thought it would be a good way to start my career and now in hindsight I highly recommend that for any new lawyer.”
After 18 months, she moved to Jacksonville to work in the litigation department at Ulmer Murchison, where she would later become the first female partner.
“At the time I joined that firm, it was over 100 years old and a great place to practice law,” Holshouser says. “I was honored that they invited me to be a partner.”
Throughout her time in practice, Holshouser maintained her connections at Duke and built new ones – serving on the board of directors of both the Duke University and Duke Law Alumni Associations, and as an alumni interviewer for Duke University applicants, a law reunion committee chair several times, a board member of her local Duke club, and more.
She brings all these experiences with her as LAA president.
“We have an unprecedented level of enthusiasm among our board members and active alumni,” Holshouser said. “My number one goal is to build on that momentum. One thing that’s been fabulous this year is all our committees have been extremely active.”
Among other projects, LAA committees have initiated a 1L mentoring program, participated in student workshops and mock interview programs, and worked to set up alumni affinity groups and other ways of keeping alumni connected to each other and the law school.
Holshouser said she hopes the board can respond to the increased level of enthusiasm she sees from alumni to expand the law school’s active alumni network and to help recruit even more volunteers.
“I’ve made such great friends over the years. I really enjoy continuing to see and work with them,” she said. “My own experience has been so positive, I would like others to enjoy this experience to the same level.”