Friday, March 1, 2024


The 29,000 licensed lawyers in North Carolina exert massive influence from Manteo to Murphy. This is a sampling of some of the more powerful attorneys, many of whom work for larger firms in the major metros. Most were chosen because of their leadership positions at their organizations.

partner | K&L Gates


Ackermann leads the national firm’s global finance practice. She came to K&L in 2012 after working as a partner at Alston & Bird. She is a graduate of Furman University and University of South Carolina School of Law.

founder | Banks Law Firm


Banks, a national expert in affordable housing and community development, leads the firm that he founded 28 years ago. It has offices in Durham, Charlotte, Atlanta and Houston. He received his undergraduate and law degrees from UNC Chapel Hill.

managing partner | James, McElroy & Diehl


Barnes, 59, represents closely-held businesses and real estate developers in a wide variety of matters, including negotiations with lenders, commercial leases and development agreements, title and zoning issues. She is a Salem State College and UNC School of Law graduate.

partner, office managing partner | Kilpatrick, Townsend & Stockton


Berlin, 62, has been at the firm for more than 35 years. His personal practice focuses on environmental law. He graduated from Wake Forest University, where he earned undergraduate and law degrees.

Key to industry success: Two things — trust and integrity.

Three people to share a meal: Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass and Ulysses S. Grant.

Proud family accomplishment: We love being with each other.

Where to entertain a visitor: Old Salem and Reynolda.

managing partner | Poyner Spruill


Cahill, 54, leads the firm’s management committee and is a commercial litigator with years of experience in finance and banking. He has an undergraduate degree from UNC Chapel Hill and a law degree from Wake Forest University.

Pre-workday motivation: Working with an energetic, collaborative organization in an economically thriving region.

Key to industry success: Client service — expertise, excellence in practice, responsiveness and understanding clients’ goals.

Best advice: If you really want to leave a legacy, be a mentor.

Three people to share a meal: Dean Smith, Anthony Bourdain and Michael Connelly.

Proud family accomplishment: We are five unique individuals with different passions and drivers. However, we make decisions together with understanding and flexibility.

Favorite hobby: Hiking in the mountains, golf, gardening and yard work.

Where to entertain a visitor: I have lived in Raleigh for 50 years, so I like to highlight old-school places, historic sites and little-known treasures in the city.

partner | Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton


Colbert leads the firm’s employee benefits practice group. She’s been recognized by America’s Best Lawyers and in North Carolina’s Super Lawyers. She graduated from the University of Illinois and earned her law degree from the University of Michigan.

managing partner | Tuggle Duggins


A graduate of UNC Chapel Hill and Wake Forest University School of Law, Duggins, 52, specializes in litigation related to construction, complex business disputes and real estate. He serves on the board of directors for Greensboro’s chamber, merchants and education alliance groups and is on the board of visitors for the Wake Forest law school.

Pre-workday motivation: Family and new opportunities with clients.

Key to industry success: A good bedside manner and excellent listening skills.

Best advice: Be intrepid in all things

Three people to share a meal: Thomas Jefferson, Teddy Roosevelt and Elon Musk.

Proud family accomplishment: Loyalty to each other.

Favorite hobby: Wood splitting and gardening.

Where to entertain a visitor: Saturday hot dog sale at Cone American Legion Post 386.

managing partner | Young Moore and Henderson


Duke, 63, has been with the firm since he graduated from Wake Forest University School of Law. He leads its trucking and transportation practice group. He earned his undergraduate degree at the College of William and Mary.

co-managing director | Ward and Smith


The Ahoskie native, 46, has a significant case history in civil litigation, trade-secret misappropriation, intellectual property infringement, corporate dissolution and antitrust disputes. He has undergraduate and law degrees from Wake Forest University.

Pre-workday motivation: My morning workout with a great group of friends. Doing something strenuous before the sun comes up makes me feel that I can handle whatever else I may run into that day.

Key to industry success: Responsiveness — our clients must feel that their challenges are our challenges, and we treat them with the same level of attention and urgency that they do.

Best advice: Never do anything halfway. If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right.

Three people to share a meal: C.S. Lewis, Ernest Hemingway and Jerry Garcia.

Proud family accomplishment: Someone once wrote of my grandfather, “He loved the land of eastern North Carolina and the people who live close to it.” I would love for that to be said of all of us.

Favorite hobby: Bird hunting in winter and offshore fishing in summer.

Where to entertain a visitor: Dickinson Avenue corridor in Uptown Greenville, which has seen a wonderful rebirth in recent years.

managing partner | Wyrick Robbins Yates & Ponton


Eveson specializes in banking law and has significant experience in securities law, mergers and acquisitions, and corporate law. He co-founded Gaeta and Eveson in 2000 and joined Wyrick Robbins when they acquired it in 2013. He is a graduate of Duke University and UNC School of Law.

Key to industry success: Be lucky enough to have a great mentor and be a very good listener.

Best advice: Once you make a commitment, you have to follow through. My parents taught me that.

Three people to share a meal: Hugh McColl, John Belk and James B. Duke.

Proud family accomplishment: My wife and I are both lawyers. Somehow we juggle our careers, kids and everything else that comes with being working parents. I am very proud of that.

Favorite hobby: Anything related to music.

founder, president, CEO | Law Offices of James Scott Farrin


Farrin’s well-known “call the hurtline” broadcast advertising campaign has helped him build one of the state’s biggest personal injury and product liability practices since its formation in 1997. He is a Trinity College and Duke University School of Law graduate.

founder, managing partner | The Francis Law Firm


The Raleigh native was a federal prosecutor before opening his firm, which has handled a series of high-profile cases. He has been active in Democratic Party politics in Raleigh, serving briefly on the Raleigh City Council. He is a director at UNC Rex Hospital. He has an undergraduate degree from Princeton and a Duke University law degree.

partner, chief diversity and inclusion officer | Fox Rothschild


Gatling’s practice focus is intellectual property, licensing and litigation. A graduate of N.C. A&T State University and George Washington University, she is past chair of Greensboro United Way and serves on the Cone Health Foundation and Truliant Federal Credit Union.

Pre-workday motivation: Definitely, coffee. Although I wouldn’t call myself a natural morning person, I think the most clearly and am most productive in the mornings. I’ve grown to appreciate an early start.

Key to industry success: Integrity, quality performance, responsiveness and networking.

Best advice: Be willing to take risks.

Three people to share a meal: MacKenzie Scott, Barack Obama and [Walgreens Boots Alliance CEO] Rosalind Brewer.

Proud family accomplishment: As a wife and mother to three sons, I am proud that my family continues to be healthy and whole through the busy grind of life. There are many moving parts with a large family, requiring tremendous levels of flexibility and grace. It’s not always easy, but we make it work.

Favorite hobby: I love to swim and play tennis. Catch me poolside or on the tennis court, especially in summer.

Where to entertain a visitor: The beautiful campus of my alma mater, N.C. A&T State University.

managing partner | Womble Bond Dickinson


The business litigator is a Duke University and Harvard University Law School graduate. Womble Bond, created in the 2017 merger of U.S. and United Kingdom-based firms, has more than 950 lawyers in 19 U.S. and eight U.K. offices.

Key to industry success: Dedication to developing and maintaining a high level of professional skill and a constant focus on clients’ interests and priorities.

Best advice: Be confident that your difficult decisions are right but willing to acknowledge and learn from your mistakes.

Proud family accomplishment: We genuinely enjoy each other’s company.

Favorite hobby: Golf and guitar.

managing partner | Parker Poe


Griffin, 63, focuses on the energy industry, including environmental litigation and issues related to renewable energy. The former Army Corps of Engineers attorney is a graduate of Wake Forest University and University of Virginia School of Law.

Pre-workday motivation: : Coffee and exercise, in that order. Without those, the day often feels a bit foggy.

Key to industry success: Retaining and growing your people. Everything flows from that — growth, culture, cohesiveness, creativity and a compelling place to work.

Best advice: Always be calm and courteous, especially under fire, because it matters. That tidbit came from my father, who was a celebrated combat leader and lived by that principle.

Three people to share a meal: The Dave Matthews Band, which is actually seven people. It would make for a cool dinner.

Proud family accomplishment: We all get along and enjoy sitting and talking at dinner, mostly without using electronic devices.

Favorite hobby: Long rides on my road bike.

Where to entertain a visitor: A good meal at a dive joint. If not there, then the U.S. National Whitewater Center.

shareholder, litigation department co-chair | Robinson Bradshaw


Harrington, 59, represents corporate clients in a variety of business matters. Both his undergraduate degree and his law degree are from Duke University. He is a past president of the Mecklenburg County Bar.

Pre-workday motivation: The opportunity to partner with clients to solve complicated legal challenges and the chance to improve our community.

Key to industry success: Dedication, preparation and attention to detail.

Best advice: Demand that every project is the best work you’ve ever done.

Three people to share a meal: Sonia Sotomayor, Barack Obama and Bill Gates.

Proud family accomplishment: Commitment to excellence in education. Our two parents were born in segregated South Carolina before 1920. They earned two college degrees of their own and their five children have five terminal degrees.

Favorite hobby: Reading.

Where to entertain a visitor: Riding or walking on tree-lined streets.

board of directors member | Nexsen Pruet


One of three North Carolinians inducted into the American College of Construction Lawyers, Heckman, 56, has been an adjunct professor of construction law at UNC School of Law for nearly two decades. Both his undergraduate and law degrees are from UNC Chapel Hill.

partner | Fox Rothschild


The Athens, Georgia native is president of the North Carolina Bar Association. His practice focus is construction litigation. He earned his undergraduate degree at East Carolina University and law degree from UNC School of Law.

Pre-workday motivation: Sweat — I start nearly every day with a workout in the gym.

Key to industry success: As with most industries, lots of hard work. And playing it straight. Reputation among repeat players is key.

Best advice: It might not be applicable in today’s world of instant communication, but the advice when I started was that if you get a letter from opposing counsel that makes you really angry, put it in a drawer for three days before responding. The principle still applies.

Favorite hobby: Nothing is better than a hike in the North Carolina mountains.

partner | McGuireWoods


Hosmer’s practice focuses on transactions involving aviation and other equipment. A member of the firm’s executive committee, she is a Yale University and UNC School of Law graduate. Chambers USA included her in its America’s Leading Lawyers for Business from 2016 to 2019.

managing partner | Hutchens Law Firm


Hutchens leads the 250-employee firm that he founded 42 years ago. He is a graduate of N.C. State University and Wake Forest University, where he earned an MBA and law degree. His personal practice focuses on real estate. He has been a member of the UNC Board of Governors since 2019.

Pre-workday motivation: Exercise and meditation.

Key to industry success: Honesty, dependability, candor and 110% effort.

Best advice: Do what you say. Be on time. Finish what you start. Say “please” and “thank you.

Three people to share a meal: Mark Twain, Coach Jim Valvano and Richard Pryor

Proud family accomplishment: Our children’s love for one another and our incredible, remarkable grandchildren.

Where to entertain a visitor: My back porch.

office managing partner | Womble Bond Dickinson


Jones, 58, leads the firm’s education and school law team, building on her experience in human resources and as a college faculty member. She has bachelor’s and law degrees from Campbell University.

Pre-workday motivation: A solid workout and some word puzzles are a great warmup for a workday loaded with interactions with interesting clients, talented colleagues and opportunities to contribute.

Best advice: Love what you do, and don’t take yourself too seriously

Favorite hobby: Hiking and following women’s college basketball.

Where to entertain a visitor: The Triangle is packed with great things to do. Umstead State Park, Duke Gardens and North Carolina Museum of Art are fun places to enjoy with visitors and get outside.

managing shareholder | Ogletree Deakins


Keen has practiced at one of the largest U.S. labor and employment law firms since 1987. He is on the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce Board of Advisors and Raleigh Sports Council Steering Committee. He is a graduate of N.C. State University and UNC School of Law.

managing partner | Smith Anderson


Kirkland, 61, practices corporate and securities law and has extensive experience advising venture capital and private equity funds. He became managing partner in 2020 after more than 30 years at the firm. He had undergraduate, MBA and law degrees from UNC Chapel Hill.

Pre-workday motivation: I wish I could tell you I run 10 miles every day, but I find work motivating enough.

Key to industry success: Caring and hard work.

Best advice: Take care of your people, products and profits in that order.

Three people to share a meal: Ina Garten, Gordon Ramsay and Chris Lilly.

Proud family accomplishment: I am most proud of the people my two adult children have become. They are goal-oriented, incredibly hard-working, and most importantly have big hearts and a great moral compass.

Favorite hobby: Travel.

managing partner | Hedrick Gardner Kincheloe & Garofalo


Lawrence’s practice is focused on civil litigation, employment law and workers’ compensation. A member of the North Carolina Association of Defense Attorneys and Defense Research Institute, he earned a bachelor’s from the University of Scranton and a law degree at Villanova University.

partner | Moore & Van Allen


McDowell is co-head of the firm’s white-collar, regulatory defense and investigations practice and has extensive experience in internal investigations for corporations. She is a former chair of the Charlotte Arts & Science Council and co-chair of the firm’s diversity committee. She has bachelor’s and law degrees from Duke University.

managing partner | Moore & Van Allen


Mitchell is chair of the firm’s management committee and a veteran attorney in the financial services field. He has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Illinois and is a Washington and Lee University law graduate. He joined the firm in 1993.

managing partner | K&L Gates


Mobley is a taxation specialist who leads the firm’s estate planning and trusts and estates group. He has undergraduate and law degrees from the University of South Carolina. He also holds a master’s of law in taxation from New York University School of Law.

shareholder | Ogletree Deakins


Morrison specializes in complex employment immigration issues, particularly at Fortune 500 companies. The graduate of University of Massachusetts and New England School of Law is on Ogletree’s nine-member board of directors.

managing partner | Ellis & Winters


Packer focuses her practice on commercial litigation with particular attention to health care product liability. A member of a regional and national trial team in breast implant litigation, she also has assisted corporate boards with internal investigations. The Durham native is a graduate of Brown University and UNC School of Law.

managing partner | Brooks Pierce


Phillips is a litigation attorney. He represents companies and their owners in antitrust, copyright and other business disputes. He holds a bachelor’s degree from UNC Chapel Hill and is a graduate of University of Texas School of Law.

Pre-workday motivation: No two days are alike, so you need to be prepared for anything, and you need to be flexible.

Key to industry success:: Understanding what our clients need to make their businesses more successful and figuring out how we can deliver those services better — better than our competitors do now and better than we did last week. Continuous improvement is one of the pillars of our culture.

Best advice: Read “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” Make those your habits.

Three people to share a meal: Jesus, Muhammad and Buddha.

Proud family accomplishment: Every one of them is a caring and kind person who lives by the Golden Rule.

Favorite hobby: Reading about history.

Where to entertain a visitor: Haw River State Park, Greensboro Aquatic Center, Steven Tanger Center for the Performing Arts, LeBauer Park and GreenHill Center for North Carolina Art.

managing partner | Robinson Bradshaw


Robertson is in his second term as managing partner at Robinson Bradshaw. The Harvard University Law School graduate is a public finance and bond attorney and one of only two North Carolinians to serve as president of the National Association of Bond Lawyers.

president | Safran Law Offices


Safran is a construction law expert who founded his firm 41 years ago. He has a bachelor’s degree from N.C. State University, an MBA from Wake Forest University and a law degree from Campbell University. The former Raleigh city councilman is a trustee at N.C. State.

Pre-workday motivation: Staying healthy, you have to keep moving, and helping my clients through the legal maze.

Key to industry success: Listen. It’s a hard lesson to learn, but you have to listen first.

Best advice: Never look down on anyone. All of us are worthy.

Three people to share a meal: Condoleezza Rice, Morgan Freeman and Lou Holtz.

Proud family accomplishment: Our friendships. Susan and I are, of course, proud of our accomplishments but being friends with our sons and siblings is most important.

Favorite hobby: Grandchildren.

Where to entertain a visitor: PNC Arena.

partner-in-charge | Alston & Bird


A corporate law specialist, Solomon has been at Alston & Bird for 17 years. He practiced law in Delaware before coming to Charlotte in 2004. He earned a bachelor’s degree at UNC Chapel Hill and a law degree at Washington and Lee University.

partner | Roberts & Stevens


The Asheville native, 52, has practiced personal injury and commercial litigation law for more than 25 years after attending UNC Chapel Hill. He represents a diverse clientele and is admitted to argue in the Cherokee Tribal Court. He is a member of the Association of Ski Defense Attorneys.

Pre-workday motivation: Strong black coffee.

Key to industry success: Relationships.

Best advice: From my Mom and Dad — Do the right thing, tell the truth and always do your best. And be home in time for dinner.

Three people to share a meal: Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt and Winston Churchill.

Proud family accomplishment: We love each other. We support each other, and we have fun together.

Favorite hobby: Trail running.

Where to entertain a visitor: Hiking in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

managing partner | Cranfill Sumner


Wall, 47, is part of the first class of North Carolina lawyers certified in privacy and information security. The Raleigh native is a graduate of UNC Chapel Hill and Campbell University School of Law.

Pre-workday motivation: A run, preferably with some of my F3 friends.

Key to industry success: Attention to detail, perseverance and flexibility.

Proud family accomplishment: My older son just earned his Eagle Scout rank, and my younger son is close behind. The commitment required is significant, and getting teenage boys to focus on anything can be a challenge.

Favorite hobby: Running the streets of Raleigh or the trails at William B. Umstead State Park.

Where to entertain a visitor: Umstead State Park.

co-managing director | Ward and Smith


Williams, 35, joined Ward and Smith after graduating from Campbell University School of Law. She specializes in labor and employment law. She is a member of the Junior League of Raleigh and the Young Lawyers division of the American Bar Association.

Pre-workday motivation: My rambunctious toddler and coffee.

Best advice: “Things happen for a reason.” — my parents. From an early age, my parents raised me to believe that God is in control, and He has a plan. This advice, faith or life lesson, however you want to interpret it, taught me to see roadblocks and detours as having a purpose in setting me on the right path toward success and happiness. It helps me keep things in perspective and see the bigger picture.

Three people to share a meal: Kate McKinnon, Melissa McCarthy and Rebel Wilson.
Favorite hobby: I love cycling and the great outdoors.

Where to entertain a visitor: We live within walking distance of Bond Brothers Beer Co. in downtown Cary and enjoy taking friends to its courtyard.

president | Bell, Davis & Pitt


Williams has been with Bell Davis & Pitt since graduating from Wake Forest University Law School in 1998. He assists clients with business, commercial, professional negligence and fiduciary disputes. The Elizabeth City native received his undergraduate degree from UNC Chapel Hill.

Pre-workday motivation: Strong coffee and a few quiet moments with a book and my furry four-legged children.

Key to industry success: Empathy, preparation and hard work.

Best advice: Don’t buy green bananas.

Three people to share a meal: Abraham Lincoln, Muhammad Ali and Jerry Garcia.

Proud family accomplishment: My wife, Aimee, and our three children, Sydney, Ethan and Trevor, are all fiercely independent while, at the same time, warm, caring and conscientious contributors to the world around them.

Favorite hobby: Spending time with friends and family.

Where to entertain a visitor: WinstonSalem’s revitalized downtown.

managing partner and founder | Wyatt & Blake


Among the state’s best-known trial lawyers, Wyatt, 64, specializes in whitecollar defense, whistleblower cases and class-action cases. He is a Vanderbilt University and Duke University School of Law graduate. He oversees a family foundation, One by One Costa Rica, that assists at-risk youth in that country.

Pre-workday motivation: Prayerful reflection and exercise.

Key to industry success: Thorough preparation and strategic judgment.

Best advice: Famous trial lawyer Jim Neal once said, “If you beat a dead horse enough it will fly.” He means that if you work hard enough, and read and reread evidence, you will eventually see angles to it that others miss.

Three people to share a meal: Charlemange, John Adams and Teddy Roosevelt

Favorite hobby: Hiking. My wife and I recently completed the Tour du Mont Blanc in Europe.