Thursday, April 18, 2024

Legal Elite – Antitrust

Antitrust: Rodrick J. Enns Enns & Archer LLP, Winston-Salem

By Kathy Brown

As a kid, Rodrick Enns thought that anyone who wanted to do anything — build a building, start a business, sell a house — needed to ask a lawyer to know how to go about it. “I wanted to be the lawyer. I wanted to be the person who knew all the answers.”

He got his wish. When it comes to antitrust, Enns, 48, is the go-to-guy for answers. Heavyweights such as Wal-Mart trust him to find answers to problems with pricing and trade practices. Through his Winston-Salem firm, Enns & Archer, he focuses on law related to the marketing and distribution of branded products and services. Along with antitrust and trade regulation, he specializes in trademark, copyright and intellectual-property cases.

Throughout his career, Enns has been a litigator. He got comfortable thinking on his feet as a debater in high school and college. While he has tried cases in North Carolina’s Court of Appeals and Supreme Court and in federal courts, he’s still not fearless in the courtroom. “It’s inherently uncontrollable. You can work every waking moment and sweat blood but still never predict what might come out of a witness’ mouth on Tuesday morning. Litigating a case means constantly living in fear and anticipation.”

But those who have seen him in action say the fear doesn’t show. “Rod went after our adversaries as though he was killing snakes,” says S. Leigh Park, a retired senior executive at Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Co., a client of Enns’ that was bought by R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. in 2002.

Enns took on the state of Pennsylvania after it began enforcing a law requiring tobacco distributors to be licensed. To get a license, a distributor had to be certified by cigarette manufacturers responsible for at least 40% of the state’s tobacco-product sales. Santa Fe makes cigarettes and acts as its own distributor. The company did not have a large market share, which meant Santa Fe had to get permission from competing manufacturers to get a license.

Santa Fe sued. Enns argued that the statute gave unfair powers to private interests. A Pennsylvania court struck down the law. “Several states passed laws that were detrimental to our business,” Park says. “Rod whipped two states’ attorney generals and was well on his way to whipping a third when we sold the company.”

Born in Kansas but raised in Seattle, Enns went to Harvard Law School without visiting the campus. Twenty minutes after arriving, two suitcases in hand, he met his future wife. She also was a law student, and they dated until graduation.

After graduation, they moved to Denver. “We didn’t want to go work in the traditional high-powered, intense cities,” he says. Four years later, Enns yearned for a milder climate and a smaller city. He and his wife decided to target the Mid-Atlantic region. A driving vacation narrowed the choices to the Carolinas and Virginia.

In 1983, he joined Petree Stockton — now Kilpatrick Stockton. Through the years, Santa Fe had been one of his major clients. Kilpatrick Stockton also represented R.J. Reynolds. When the two companies took different stances on an industry issue, RJR asked Kilpatrick Stockton to stop representing Santa Fe. “I could either lose this client and stay with the firm, or leave and stay with the client,” Enns says.

He chose the client. In 2001, he and Julia Archer, also a Kilpatrick Stockton partner, set up a new firm. That RJR kept Santa Fe a distinct company after buying it enabled them to keep their biggest client. Enns and Archer have kept their practice small. It’s still just the two of them and an office manager.

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