The best women lawyers in the state thrive through hard work − at the office and at home.
Women lawyers have made tremendous progress since Tabitha Holton became the first to pass the North Carolina bar exam in 1878. Today, the percentage of women lawyers in some specialties and firms almost matches that of men, while law school graduates are nearly equally divided. North Carolina is one of 20 states with a female chief justice. For the first time, the North Carolina Bar Association will have back-to-back women presidents. Catharine Arrowood, a partner in Parker Poe Adams & Bernstein LLP’s Raleigh office and a Legal Elite Hall of Famer, was installed as the organization’s 120th president in June. Shelby Benton of Benton Family Law PA in Goldsboro, also a Legal Elite honoree, is the president-elect.
While women still experience challenges their male counterparts don’t, they are achieving unprecedented success and recognition. They comprise almost a fifth of Business North Carolina’s 2014 Legal Elite list of 688 attorneys in North Carolina, based on voting by lawyers for the best practitioners in 14 business-related specialties. The 126 women succeed at levels only dreamed of by their trailblazing predecessors, who a few decades ago were forbidden to enter some courtrooms unless accompanied by a male colleague. The list accompanying this story features women named to this year’s class of Legal Elites.
Pioneers and perceptions
Family law might seem attractive to women, but that hasn’t always been the case, says Gena Morris, a partner with Horack, Talley, Pharr & Lowndes PA in Charlotte. Most divorce and custody cases end up in court instead of mediation, requiring services of experienced litigators, most of them male. “When I started practicing, it was a boys club,” says Morris, a 1992 graduate of Campbell Law School, which is now in Raleigh. “There were probably three women besides me in Mecklenburg doing good, complicated family law. Now it’s at least 50% women.”
Rude treatment by members of the “boys club” prompted Morris to work harder. “At least one lawyer in particular treated me as a lesser class of lawyer because I was a woman, and I was young,” she recalls. “It made me mad, and I wanted to get even. It was sort of a source of inspiration. A lot of us older family lawyers wanted to beat the boys at their own game.” Today, Morris is one of 35 attorneys in the state — and 1,600 in the country — designated a fellow by Chicago-based American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers.
Beth Hodges, a colleague at Horack Talley, was the first female lawyer hired by the firm. “There were very, very few women attorneys in private practice, let alone family law,” says Hodges, a 1979 graduate of UNC School of Law in Chapel Hill. “Early on, I was mistaken for a secretary by a client at our first meeting, so I’ve seen a lot of positive changes over the years.” While some older attorneys and judges may harbor chauvinistic attitudes, “those are few and far between,” Morris says. Clients are as likely to seek out women lawyers to handle cases. “Both Beth and I are hired by NFL players and corporate CEOs,” she says.
Susan Barbour, a real-estate lawyer at McGuire, Wood and Bissette PA in Asheville, was the third woman hired at her first law firm. She credits her success to “parents who raised me to believe I could do anything I set my mind to” and learning how to network in traditionally male industries such as construction and commercial development. “In my office, we’ve developed a team approach to business development, which makes it easier for male and female attorneys to work together to network and bring in business,” Barbour says.
Balancing family and work
Many women in this year’s Legal Elite are mothers who face challenges similar to women in other occupations. “Packing up bottles in the morning for the baby to have at day care is the same whether you’re an engineer or a lawyer, ” says Julie Richardson of Myers Bigel Sibley & Sajovec PA in Raleigh, who raised four kids while working first for Fairfield, Conn.-based General Electric Co. and then as a law student and attorney. She and other female lawyers credit supportive spouses and employers. Nevertheless, no one expects to achieve a perfect “work-life” balance. “I don’t know what that term means,” says Arrowood, who has an adult daughter. “Whenever women come to me feeling overwhelmed, I tell them to make a list of five things they can do as a way to help them focus and not panic. That’s the way I was raised, with no whining.” Lisa Sumner of Poyner Spruill LLP in Raleigh, who specializes in creditors’ rights and bankruptcy cases, takes a similar tack. “I’m a single mother of three kids,” the 1994 Duke University Law School graduate says. “The way I manage this is by working really hard, asking for help when I need it and prayer.”
Successful women lawyers also emphasize the importance of role models and mentors. Shawna Lemon credits her Myers Bigel colleague Richardson, along with her husband, Brian, for aiding her career since graduating from UNC School of Law in 2001. “He went to law school while I was getting my Ph.D. [in biomedical sciences], so he was an attorney first and knows what it’s like,” she says. “He is extremely supportive.” The Lemons’ three children have been shaped positively. “For our daughter, I hope I’m an inspiration if she wants to be a professional who has a family, and my sons get to see my husband and me working together as a team.”
Lisa F. Garrison, Smith Moore Leatherwood LLP, Greensboro; Denise M. Gunter, Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP, Winston-Salem; Rebecca M. Rich, Duke University School of Law, Durham
Shelley K. Abel, Rayburn Cooper & Durham PA, Charlotte; June L. Basden, Carruthers & Roth PA, Greensboro; Stacy C. Cordes, Burt & Cordes PLLC, Charlotte; Heather W. Culp, Rawls, Scheer, Foster, Mingo & Culp PLLC, Charlotte; Julia Wicker Lee, Parker Poe Adams & Bernstein LLP, Raleigh; Rebecca F. Redwine, Hendren & Malone PLLC, Raleigh; Ashley S. Rusher, Blanco Tackabery & Matamoros PA, Winston-Salem; Lisa Patterson Sumner, Poyner Spruill LLP, Raleigh; Margaret R. Westbrook, K&L Gates LLP, Raleigh; A. Cotten Wright, Grier Furr & Crisp PA, Charlotte; Constance L. Young, Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice LLP, Charlotte
June L. Basden, Carruthers & Roth PA, Greensboro; Anne Croteau, Smith, Anderson, Blount, Dorsett, Mitchell & Jernigan LLP, Raleigh; Kerry A. Friedman, Patla, Straus, Robinson & Moore PA, Asheville; Garland G. Graham, Schell Bray PLLC, Greensboro; Carolyn P. Meade, Moore & Van Allen PLLC, Charlotte
Nan E. Hannah, Hannah Sheridan Loughridge & Cochran LLP, Raleigh; Elizabeth L. Riley, Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice LLP, Raleigh; Riana Smith, Strauch Green & Mistretta PC, Raleigh
Nadine C. Chien, Morrisville; Shirley J. Linn, FairPoint Communications Inc., Charlotte; Dayatra T. Matthews, Local Government Federal Credit Union, Raleigh; Jane Lewis-Raymond, Piedmont Natural Gas Co., Charlotte
C. Melissa Owen, Tin Fulton Walker & Owen PLLC, Charlotte; Claire J. Rauscher, Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice LLP, Charlotte
Amie F. Carmack, Morningstar Law Group, Morrisville; Denise S. Cline, Law Offices of Denise Smith Cline PLLC, Raleigh; Nicole Crawford, Brooks, Pierce, McLendon, Humphrey & Leonard LLP, Greensboro; Julie Theall Earp, Smith Moore Leatherwood LLP, Greensboro; Gretchen W. Ewalt, Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart PC, Raleigh; Nicole L. Gardner, Gardner Skelton PLLC, Charlotte; Susanna K. Gibbons, Poyner Spruill LLP, Raleigh; Patricia Goodson, Brooks, Pierce, McLendon, Humphrey & Leonard LLP, Raleigh; Lori P. Jones, Jordan Price Wall Gray Jones & Carlton PLLC, Raleigh; Dena Beth Langley, Hagan Davis Mangum Barrett & Langley PLLC, Greensboro; Kristen G. Lingo, Manning, Fulton & Skinner PA, Raleigh; Margaret B. “Meg” Maloney, Maloney Law & Associates PLLC, Charlotte; Karin M. McGinnis, Moore & Van Allen PLLC, Charlotte; Laura Noble, The Noble Law Firm PLLC, Chapel Hill; Corena A. Norris-McCluney, Krispy Kreme Doughnut Corp., Winston-Salem; Patti W. Ramseur, Smith Moore Leatherwood LLP, Greensboro; Sabrina P. Rockoff, McGuire, Wood & Bissette PA, Asheville; Kerry A. Shad, Smith, Anderson, Blount, Dorsett, Mitchell & Jernigan LLP, Raleigh; Mimi E. Soule, Soule Employment Law Firm PLLC, Raleigh; Shannon “Missy” Sumerell Spainhour, Davis Hartman Wright PLLC, Asheville; Jill S. Stricklin, Constangy, Brooks & Smith LLP, Winston-Salem; Geraldine Sumter, Ferguson, Chambers & Sumter PA, Charlotte; L. Diane Tindall, Wyrick Robbins Yates & Ponton LLP, Raleigh; Laura J. Wetsch, Winslow Wetsch PLLC, Raleigh; Charlot F. Wood, Bell, Davis & Pitt PA, Winston-Salem; Kathleen N. Worm, The Worm Law Firm PC, Raleigh
Lisa M. Angel, The Rosen Law Firm, Raleigh; Marcia H. Armstrong, Armstrong & Armstrong PA, Smithfield; Heidi C. Bloom, Wyrick Robbins Yates & Ponton LLP, Raleigh; Jenny Bradley, Cheshire Parker Schneider & Bryan PLLC, Raleigh; Kimberly Bryan, Cheshire Parker Schneider & Bryan PLLC, Raleigh; Cary Close, Cary Close Family Law, Raleigh; Michelle D. Connell, Cranfill Sumner & Hartzog LLP, Raleigh; Joslin Davis, Allman Spry Davis Leggett & Crumpler PA, Winston-Salem; Christine S. Eatmon, Eatmon Law Firm PC, Wake Forest; Marilyn Feuchs-Marker, Smith Moore Leatherwood LLP, Greensboro; Janet L. Gemmell, Cape Fear Family Law, Wilmington; Kristin M. Hampson, McGill & Hampson PA, Raleigh; Elizabeth T. Hodges, Horack, Talley, Pharr & Lowndes PA, Charlotte; Cathy C. Hunt, Gailor Hunt Jenkins Davis & Taylor PLLC, Raleigh; Jill Jackson, Tharrington Smith LLP, Raleigh; Afi Johnson-Parris, Ward Black Law PA, Greensboro; Laura A. McCoy, Howard, Green & Moye LLP, Raleigh; Jaye Meyer, Tharrington Smith LLP, Raleigh; Barbara R. Morgenstern, Barbara R. Morgenstern PLLC, Greensboro; Gena G. Morris, Horack, Talley, Pharr & Lowndes PA, Charlotte; Julianne B. Rothert, Wake Family Law Group, Raleigh; Linda B. Sayed, Block, Crouch, Keeter, Behm & Sayed LLP, Wilmington; Michele G. Smith, Hill Evans Jordan & Beatty PLLC, Greensboro; Nicole H. Sodoma, Sodoma Law PC, Charlotte; Robin J. Stinson, Bell, Davis & Pitt PA, Winston-Salem; Rose M. Stout, Smith Debnam Narron Drake Saintsing & Myers LLP, Raleigh; Alice C. Stubbs, Tharrington Smith LLP, Raleigh; Susan M. Sullivan, Elliot Morgan Parsonage PA,Winston-Salem; Lori M. Vitale, Vitale Family Law, Raleigh; Tamela Wallace, Tamela T. Wallace PA, Charlotte; Elise M. Whitley, Tash & Kurtz PLLC, Winston-Salem
Julia C. Archer, Enns & Archer LLP, Winston-Salem; Pamela S. Chestek, Chestek Legal, Raleigh; Jennifer L. Collins, Morningstar Law Group, Morrisville; Kimberly B. Gatling, Smith Moore Leatherwood LLP, Greensboro; Arlene D. Hanks, Moore & Van Allen PLLC, Research Triangle Park; Shawna C. Lemon, Myers Bigel Sibley & Sajovec PA, Raleigh; Julie H. Richardson, Myers Bigel Sibley & Sajovec PA, Raleigh
Allison J. Becker, Yates, McLamb & Weyher LLP, Raleigh; B. Joan Davis, Howard, Stallings, From & Hutson PA, Raleigh; Sara R. Lincoln, Lincoln Derr PLLC, Charlotte; Jean S. Martin, Rhine Martin Law Firm PC, Wilmington; Leslie C. Packer, Ellis & Winters LLP, Raleigh; Toniann Primiano, Horowitz & Primiano PLLC, Huntersville; Alice Carmichael Richey, Parker Poe Adams & Bernstein LLP, Charlotte; Patricia P. Shields, Hedrick Gardner Kincheloe & Garofalo LLP, Raleigh; Kerri L. Sigler, Wait Law PLLC, Winston-Salem; Cynthia L. Van Horne, Poyner Spruill LLP, Charlotte; Allison O. Van Laningham, Turning Point Litigation Van Laningham Duncan PLLC, Greensboro; Dixie T. Wells, Ellis & Winters LLP, Greensboro
Holly H. Alderman, Schell Bray PLLC, Chapel Hill; Mary B. Ashley, Echols Purser & Glenn PLLC, Charlotte; Susan S. Barbour, McGuire, Wood & Bissette PA, Asheville; Joan M. Bergman, Bell, Davis & Pitt PA, Winston-Salem; Alison R. Cayton, Manning, Fulton & Skinner PA, Raleigh; Elizabeth R. Harrison, Elizabeth R. Harrison, Attorney at Law PC, Raleigh; Susan K. Irvin, Davidson; Anna P. McLamb, Brooks, Pierce, McLendon, Humphrey & Leonard LLP, Raleigh; Shannon P. O’Donnell, American Asset Corp., Charlotte; Tonya B. Powell, Shanahan Law Group PLLC, Raleigh; Maria Pruszynska Satterfield, Rogers, Townsend and Thomas PC, Charlotte; Rebecca J. Reinhardt, Roberts & Stevens PA, Asheville; Cathy M. Rudisill, Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP, Raleigh; Elizabeth W. Voltz, Weatherspoon & Voltz LLP, Raleigh; Katherine B. Wilkerson, Lynch & Eatman LLP, Raleigh
Elizabeth K. Arias, Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice LLP, Raleigh; Mary Kay Baynard, James, McElroy & Diehl PA, Charlotte; Jean G. Carter, Hunton & Williams LLP, Raleigh; Andrea C. Chomakos, Parker Poe Adams & Bernstein LLP, Charlotte; Debra L. Foster, Debra L. Foster PA, Charlotte; Amy H. Kincaid, Schell Bray PLLC, Greensboro; Amy S. Klass, Smith Moore Leatherwood LLP, Greensboro; Jennifer L.J. Koenig, Schell Bray PLLC, Greensboro; Angela R. Kreinbrink, McAllister, Aldridge & Kreinbrink PLLC, High Point; Abigail E. Peoples, Abigail E. Peoples PLLC, Greensboro; Jill Raspet, Smith Moore Leatherwood LLP, Wilmington; Daire Roebuck, McPherson, Rocamora, Nicholson & Nordgren PLLC, Durham; Amy K. Smith, Bell, Davis & Pitt PA, Winston-Salem; Sue A. Sprunger, Sprunger Law PLLC, Raleigh; Kimberly H. Stogner, Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice LLP, Winston-Salem; Kimberly Q. Swintosky, Smith, Anderson, Blount, Dorsett, Mitchell & Jernigan LLP, Raleigh
Allison J. Becker, Yates, McLamb & Weyher LLP, Raleigh; Ashley K. Brathwaite, Ellis & Winters LLP, Raleigh; Kelly S. Brown, Young Moore and Henderson PA, Raleigh; Angela W. DiNoto, Wilmington; Amy Foxhall, Charlotte; Elizabeth Frock Runyon, Wyrick Robbins Yates & Ponton LLP, Raleigh; Pearlynn G. Houck, Robinson, Bradshaw & Hinson PA, Charlotte; L. Bree Laughrun, Arnold & Smith PLLC, Charlotte; Lauren T. Millovitsch, Blanco Tackabery & Matamoros PA, Mooresville; Holly Norvell, Johnston, Allison & Hord PA, Charlotte; Elizabeth S. Ostendorf, First Citizens Bancshares Inc, Raleigh; Rebecca F. Redwine, Hendren & Malone PLLC, Raleigh; Sabrina P. Rockoff, McGuire, Wood & Bissette PA, Asheville; Heidi E. Royal, Robinson, Bradshaw & Hinson PA, Charlotte; Mariana G. Russell, Barefoot Family Law, Raleigh; Mindi L. Schulze, Yates, McLamb & Weyher LLP, Raleigh; Katherine Tenfelde Armstrong, Robinson Elliott and Smith, Charlotte
2014 HALL OF FAME
ANTITRUST: Jennifer K. Van Zant, Brooks, Pierce, McLendon, Humphrey & Leonard LLP, Greensboro (2010); Catharine B. Arrowood, Parker Poe Adams & Bernstein LLP, Raleigh (2011)
BANKRUPTCY: Terri L. Gardner, Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP, Raleigh (2007); Christine Myatt, Nexsen Pruet LLC, Greensboro (2010)
BUSINESS: Doris R. Bray, Schell Bray PLLC, Greensboro (2004); Amalie L. Tuffin, Whitmeyer Tuffin PLLC, Raleigh (2012)
CORPORATE COUNSEL: Meredith B. Stone, NACCO Materials Handling Group Inc., Greenville (2011); Lisa D. Inman, Waste Industries USA Inc., Raleigh (2012)
EMPLOYMENT: Penni Pearson Bradshaw, Constangy Brooks & Smith LLP, Winston-Salem (2004); Patricia L. Holland, Jackson Lewis PC, Cary (2006); Sarah J. Kromer, Sarah J. Kromer PLLC, Charlotte (2009); Susan Brown Grady, SPX Corp., Charlotte (2010); Lisa Grafstein, Disability Rights North Carolina, Raleigh (2011); N. Renee Hughes, Essex Richards, PA, Charlotte (2012)
ENVIRONMENTAL: Ramona Cunningham O’Bryant, Smith Moore Leatherwood LLP, Greensboro (2011)
FAMILY: Carlyn Poole (retired), Tharrington Smith LLP, Raleigh (2008); Lana S. Warlick, Law Office of Lana S. Warlick, Jacksonville (2010)
INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY: Susan Freya Olive, Olive & Olive PA, Durham (2008)
TAX / ESTATE PLANNING: Elizabeth L. Quick, Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice PLLC, Winston-Salem (2006); Christy Eve Reid (died May 8, 2014), Robinson, Bradshaw & Hinson PA, Charlotte (2009); Maria M. Lynch, Lynch & Eatman LLP, Raleigh (2011)