Wednesday, June 12, 2024

NC portraits: Leadership in law firms, balanced leaders

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Lawyers are one of those things you hope you never need, but when you do, you want the best. The state is filled with top notch law firms specializing in all types of law, including those profiled on the following pages. In speaking with the firms, it was easy to find a common thread. Each of them champions their clients above all else and truly cares about the people they work with. Read on to learn more about Ward and Smith, Myers Bigel and Kaufman & Canoles.


Myers Bigel leadership: Randy Ayers, Julie Richardson, Grant Scott, Jim Cannon, Needham Boddie


Myers Bigel is a law firm people don’t leave very often. The average tenure for an employee is 16 years, according to shareholder James (Jim) Cannon, who has been with the firm since its inception 25 years ago. “There’s a lot of loyalty, and as a result a lot of continuity,” he says.

In fact, there are five attorneys who can say they were one of the original 17 to form Myers Bigel by breaking away from Bell Seltzer during that firm’s merger with Alston & Bird in 1997. One of those five is D. Randal Ayers, who was recently included in the peer reviewed The Best Lawyers In America’s 2021-22 listing. 

Another is Needham Boddie II, who began practicing patent law, which Myers Bigel specializes in, in 1994 when he joined Bell Seltzer after 10 years of experience in design engineering with Duke Power Company. 

As a firm that focuses on patent law, particularly in the tech, chemistry and biology, and mechanical industries, their location in the heart of the Triangle in Raleigh allows each attorney to flourish in their  area of expertise. This is true of Julie Richardson, who focuses on patent prosecution in the electro-mechanical arts with an emphasis on biomedical devices. 

Grant Scott, former shareholder and now counsel at Myers Bigel, is one of the attorneys with the most experience at the firm, having started his law career in 1991 like Cannon.

Cannon believes the continuity of the firm is one of the reasons for its success and, along with excellent service, why many of the firm’s clients, including the firm’s four largest clients, have remained loyal for more than 20 years. 

But he’s not concerned about the future of the firm, either. A number of people at Myers Bigel have been there for decades, like Rohan Saba, a shareholder that has been at the firm since graduating from law school 20 years ago, and Erin Bobay, a shareholder who’s been at the firm since graduating law school 14 years ago, both of whom have already taken leadership roles in the firm’s management. Executive Director Ashley Woodruff has been with the firm 23 years, having served in many roles before assuming her current responsibilities almost 10 years ago. 

“The hope would be that we’re able to continue the way we have, providing high quality service and keeping the informal, yet very professional environment we have,” he says. “I see in the people who are coming along the ability to sustain that.”

919-854-1400  |


Frank Hirsch, Jr. of the Raleigh office of Kaufman & Canoles


Kaufman & Canoles, P.C. has been operating in Virginia for over 100 years, but it’s
still a relatively new business in the Raleigh area, having opened its first North Carolina 
branch in 2021. 

Led by Frank Hirsch, Jr., the firm’s senior of counsel and chair of the Consumer Finance practice group, the Raleigh office was established to allow K&C to better serve the North Carolina clients they already had, as well as expand into the growing Triangle area. 

Hirsch is no stranger to Raleigh, positioning him well to help grow the firm’s office in the city. He has spent his entire legal career in North Carolina and has been in Raleigh since 2000. Since then, the city’s population has grown by 72%. 

“The choice to open in Raleigh was more strategic than just geography,” Hirsch says. “Client synergies are always a driver.”

This is why K&C has also been expanding its areas of expertise in the Raleigh market, Hirsch explains, into health care, litigation, labor and employment, IP, white collar, environmental, commercial real estate, financial services, as well as specialty practices in government contracting, cybersecurity, and ESOPs. Part of Hirsch’s role is to grow the Raleigh office and search for qualified lawyers focusing on these specialties. 

Hirsch focuses on litigation, particularly the defense of financial institutions in class actions. He found passion for this work after his career with Centura Bank prior to the bank’s sale to RBC. 

Hirsch’s favorite part of working with K&C is having the resources of a large, established firm, but with a focus on client work and quality service. 

“Client focus, rate flexibility, relatively few conflicts concerns and schedule controls are simply better at K&C,” he says. “These make the practice of law fun and fulfilling.” 


984-222-8100 |


Ward & Smith’s Brad Evans and Devon Williams


Most law firms have one managing partner, but Ward and Smith is not like most law firms.

Ward and Smith, with nearly 100 attorneys in five offices throughout North Carolina, has always had two co-managing directors. “We believe two heads are better than one,” quips Brad Evans. Evans, a Greenville-based litigator, joined the firm in 2003, and has served as one of those two heads since 2017. In 2021, Devon Williams, a Raleigh-based employment law attorney, joined Evans in the leadership role, after practicing at Ward and Smith since 2012.

Both Evans and Williams carry an active, full-time client-facing law practice, while serving
as firm leaders.

“One of the best ways we can serve the firm is by practicing law, solving our clients’ problems and staying in close touch with our team members,” says Evans. “We know where the pain points are in any internal process, because we feel them just the same way everyone else does.” 

“And we work well together to maximize each other’s leadership strengths,” Williams says.
“It’s a true partnership.”

Both co-managing directors acknowledge the way they run the firm is not in the mainstream. “Ward and Smith has a different business model, and it’s a difference I am passionate about,” says Williams. “Many law firms say they function as a team, but we actually do. Our model is different in that we have no attorney originations, no sharp elbows about who owns a client relationship, and are united around the vision that we do what is best for our clients.”

Evans agrees. “At Ward and Smith, our organizational chart is a circle, with our clients at the center. Every single one of us, including the co-managing directors, organize ourselves around what is best for our clients. That keeps us aligned as we discuss possible directions and goals.”

“We are both focused on enabling our attorneys to continue to innovate efficient legal solutions for our clients, and attract and retain top-tier talent,” Williams adds.


800-998-1102 |





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