BYC Spotlight – Carolyn “Lyn” Roberts

Carolyn “Lyn” Roberts, J.D. 1989

Who has had a tremendous impact on your career and how did this person help you?

During my third year of law school I took a part-time job at Square Books.  I was an English major in college and had always been an avid reader.  Seeing the light at the end of the law school tunnel, working at a book store was interesting to me and a pleasant way to earn a little extra money.  As it turned out, I really loved working at the store.  I was happy being around books I loved and sharing them with others.  I enjoyed meeting writers and was excited to see the new releases each week.  Ever changing books, new faces, I was never bored. I did not realize at the time that bookselling would become my career, nor did Richard and Lisa Howorth, the owners and founders of Square Books.   After receiving my J.D. and sitting for the bar, I remained at a loss for an avenue in the legal field that I felt passionate about.  The Howorths allowed me to continue working at Square Books, now as a full time employee, and they were also flexible in giving me time off to take the bar exam.  That generosity gave me time to realize that I should do what I enjoyed.

What unexpected turns has your career taken?

While I was in law school, even after, I would never expected to find myself, almost thirty years later, managing a bookstore.  Had that been my original goal, it is highly unlikely that I ever would have even applied to law school.  However, as far as my path has diverged from the legal field, I do not regret receiving my Juris Doctor degree.  For one, it is part of the circuitous path that led me where I am today, where I am happy to be, but it also molded my skills as a critical thinker and an analytical reader, which are very valuable skills in any sort of business.

What is one characteristic that you believe is important to be successful and why? 

Obviously to be successful one must work hard, but it is just as important to work well, and this is an easy thing to do if what one is doing is something one is passionate about.

What are you doing to ensure you continue to grow and develop in your career?

Retail is a very challenging business, and within that, bookselling is perhaps the most difficult.  Working within the book industry’s peculiar structure has never been easy, however, Square Books has been a member of the American Booksellers Association since the store was founded in 1979. Since, I began at the store in 1988, I have followed developments in the industry and learned from other businesses, bookstores and others as well.  At Square Books, we strive to stay current and adapt new technologies where they might serve our customers and the business, but have not rushed in to adopt before analyzing the value of any changes.  We attend conventions and educational events annually and exchange ideas and best practices with other independent booksellers frequently.

Why is supporting the mission of the Bessie Young Council important to you? 

Supporting students who are passionate about law school, who, perhaps, have a goal or a mission, is essential to someday achieve an equitable society.  Students whose financial resources may be limited, or students who plan to pursue careers that will not support large loan payments should be helped as those who are in pursuit of a dream when there are obstacles will be the same who will give back to our communities and society when they are able to reach their goals.  We all benefit from their success.

What are your strongest memories from law school? 

When I graduated from college and entered the University of Mississippi Law School in 1986  there were significantly fewer women than men enrolled.  Many of the women were older and were returning to school while raising children.   I had such respect for their sacrifice and ability to somehow do it “all,” when I, a twenty-two year old, could barely take care of myself.

On the other hand, I occasionally felt that I was not being taken seriously and was challenged to prove myself.  Perhaps because I was a woman, but I think that all law students are, and should be, challenged.