When Alysja Carlisle was 10 years old, she did a school project on careers — and decided right then on her future path.
“I always wanted to be challenged by what I do, and I wanted to keep learning. I didn't want to do a job where you learn the job and then that's all you need to know for the next 50 years,” she says. “It’s also really important to me to give back to the community.”
Fast forward a few years and the 2015 USC School of Law graduate is doing all of that. As vice president and legal counsel at Belk in Charlotte, she reviews and drafts commercial contracts, manages projects, and addresses a wide range of general corporate, privacy and intellectual property issues.
She also makes sure she gives her time and talents to organizations around the region – including her law school alma mater.
A future in law
Carlisle’s family moved around a lot while she was growing up, including living in Europe and various spots around the Southeast. She calls herself an “extroverted introvert,” and says her family’s moves, often in the middle of the year, helped her navigate her surroundings and learn to break into pre-existing groups.
Along the way, she never gave up on her plans to become a lawyer. She went to Winthrop University as an undergrad, and worked several jobs to pay for her education, including a job at a law firm.
When it came time to apply to law school, she knew a few things. She knew she was interested in transactional law, such as mergers and acquisitions and private equity work. She wanted to eventually return to practice law in the Charlotte area, a large city that was close to her family. And, as a first-generation college student, she knew she wanted to attend an excellent law school that was also affordable.
“I'm the first person in my family to go to college and the first person to go on to any kind of professional program. I had to pay for everything myself,” she says. “USC offered me a scholarship, so it was a natural decision to stay in-state.”
While in law school, she worked summer jobs at the Womble Bond Dickinson and Nelson Mullins firms. After graduation in 2015, she accepted an offer and worked with Womble for several years before moving to become an in-house counsel with Belk in Charlotte.
She handles all the retail store’s transactional work, everything from merchandising, marketing, supply chain, finance and e-commerce to privacy, compliance and intellectual property.
“When you’re in-house, there’s always something to do. There is never any dead time, so you’re constantly challenged,” she says.
Along the way, she has stayed involved with organizations in her community as well as the USC law school.
She is president of the Charlotte Asian Pacific American Bar Association, chair of the sponsorship and programming committee of the Charlotte chapter of the Association of Corporate Counsel, and has been a board member of Partners for Parks. She also is president of the USC Law Alumni Council, which works closely with the law school to look for strategic opportunities to connect alumni to law students.
She said her time at USC law taught her the importance of building relationships with colleagues and communities.
“Law school is often known for being super competitive, and that's still true at USC Law. But USC is also known for being very collegial. The relationships that you build will last you a lifetime,” she says.
And those relationships can hold the key to a fulfilling career.
“To be a successful attorney, you have to be smart. But the thing about law school is that everybody's smart, right? What truly makes a successful attorney is somebody who can build relationships inside and outside of their practice. So not just internally with your colleagues, but also with your clients, with the community. And USC Law does a great job of honing in on what you need to be a successful attorney and teaching you those skills."