Marks Arnold has practiced law with Smith Anderson for more than 35 years. As the Raleigh firm’s ethics and risk management partner, Arnold assists clients with mergers and acquisitions, as well as general corporate, contract and commercial matters.
On Oct. 30, Arnold was inducted into the Boys & Girls Clubs of Wake County’s Hall of Fame, which honors individuals, corporations and civic organizations that have positively impacted the clubs.
In a conversation with Crain’s Raleigh-Durham, Arnold discussed his career path to law, his passion for community and volunteerism, and what he hopes for Raleigh's future.
Q: What drew you to the Boys & Girls Clubs?
A: I knew a number of people who were serving on the board or who had previously been on the board, so I knew the organization by reputation and knew they did good work for a very worthy cause of helping children in the community, particularly those who are underprivileged. That’s the reason I got started. Once I got involved, I realized they did a wonderful job of carrying out their mission and they had a great impact on the members they served and the community as a whole.
Q: Why is volunteerism and community involvement important in a well-rounded community, such as Raleigh and the greater RTP region?
A: All of us have an obligation to give back and serve the community. If people who have busy jobs and active lives don’t take on those responsibilities, it leaves a much smaller group of people available to do the work, and they may not always be the people to do it most effectively.
Q: What role do you think community involvement plays in one’s professional development?
A: I think that it can help in their professional development and career and the best way it does that is not that it necessarily will bring more work to the law firm — although it’s certainly a positive for the firm’s reputation in the community — but that doing some sort of volunteer work makes the person feel better about who they are and what they’re doing. If they do a better job at work, they do a better job with their family and they do a better job at everything because they’re happier.
Q: Switching gears from your civic activities to your day job, what was your path to law?
A: When I was in college, I was thinking about what I was going to do when I got out. I grew up in a small town and knew several lawyers and knew that they were well-respected in the community. I suppose it was for lack of a better idea that I thought law was something I could give a try and see how it works. I grew up in Enfield, in Halifax County in eastern North Carolina, but for my last two years of school, I went to Woodbury Forest School in Virginia. There, they encouraged students to look more broadly than the state in which they grew up or schools that were closer geographically, which is how I ended up at Princeton University (for undergraduate studies).
Q: You returned to the Tar Heel State for law school and to live and practice law. Why did you choose to return?
A: I wanted to come back closer to home. I’ve always loved North Carolina. I had no desire to work in New York or Chicago or California.
Q: You’ve been with Smith Anderson for 38 years, so presumably you’ve seen a lot of changes in the Raleigh area and there are many exciting things on the horizon. What’s one thing you hope it doesn't lose?
A: In the mayoral campaign that we just saw a conclusion to, there was a conversation about Raleigh needing to be a more inclusive place. I’m not sure it’s always been that way, but Raleigh has – at least when I started here – a smaller town or small city feel. It’s much bigger now than it was when I came to Raleigh in 1978. People who are involved as leaders in the community or in their business or profession need to continue to provide civic and charitable service to the community and reach out to those who need help to make the city a better place. I think if people spend all their time trying to further their own careers to the exclusion of everything else, it’s not good for our city, our culture or our community.