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North Carolina has more than 28,000 licensed lawyers across the state. This section reflects only a sampling of some of the most powerful, most of whom work for larger firms in the bigger metro areas. This list focuses mainly on those chosen for leadership positions by their peers.

STACY ACKERMANN

partner | K&L Gates

Charlotte

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

CATHERINE BARNES

managing partner | James, McElroy & Diehl

Charlotte

Barnes, 58, represents closely held businesses and real estate developers. A Salem State College and UNC School of Law graduate, she succeeded Pender McElroy as the firm’s leader in 2014.

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STEVE BERLIN

managing partner | Kilpatrick, Townsend & Stockton

Winston-Salem

Chairman of the firm’s environment and production regulation team, Berlin, 61, has been at his firm for nearly 35 years. With bachelor’s and law degrees from Wake Forest University, he’s a member of Business North Carolina’s Legal Elite Hall of Fame under environmental law.

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DAN CAHILL

managing partner | Poyner Spruill

Raleigh

For more than 20 years, Cahill, 53, has represented corporations in state and federal court. A UNC Chapel Hill and Wake Forest University School of Law graduate, he’s been a partner at Poyner since 2001 and managing partner since 2017.

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JOSEPH CHESHIRE V

partner | Cheshire Parker Schneider

Raleigh

Cheshire opened his practice in 1978. He’s handled many highly publicized cases, including representing the wrongfully accused Duke University lacrosse players. The UNC Chapel Hill and Wake Forest University School of Law graduate led the creation of the state’s Indigent Defense Services Commission.

BARBARA CHRISTY

partner | Schell Bray

Greensboro

Christy, 62, is president of the North Carolina State Bar. A graduate of Appalachian State University and UNC School of Law, her practice focuses on commercial real estate transactions. North Carolina Super Lawyers magazine listed her among the top real estate lawyers in 2010 through 2014, 2019 and 2020.

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LOIS WAGMAN COLBERT

partner | Kilpatrick Townsend

Charlotte

Colbert leads the international firm’s employee benefits practice group. A University of Illinois and University of Michigan Law School graduate, she wrote for or edited a decade’s worth of annual supplements to employee benefits law. She has been listed in Super Lawyers.

NATHAN DUGGINS

managing partner | Tuggle Duggins

Greensboro

A graduate of UNC Chapel Hill and Wake Forest University School of Law, Duggins, 51, helps clients navigate 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.

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DAVID DUKE

managing partner | Young Moore and Henderson

Raleigh

Duke, 62, leads the firm’s trucking and transportation practice group. He’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary and Wake Forest University School of Law.

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BRADLEY EVANS

co-managing director | Ward and Smith

Greenville

The Ahoskie native, 45, specializes in civil litigation and has experience in trade secret misappropriation, intellectual property infringement, corporate dissolution and antitrust disputes. He has bachelor’s and law degrees from Wake Forest University.

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JAMES FARRIN

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

Durham

Farrin has used heavy broadcast advertising to build one of the state’s biggest personal injury and product liability practices. He is a Trinity College and Duke University School of Law graduate. He received the North Carolina Advocates for Justice’s 2011 Citation of Excellence Ebbie Award.

JAMES FERGUSON II

founder, president | Ferguson, Chambers & Sumter

Charlotte

The Asheville native co-founded the state’s first integrated law firm in 1967. He has been a key N.C. civil rights leader over the past 50 years. An N.C. Central University and Columbia University law school graduate, he has taught at Harvard University Law School.

CHARLES FRANCIS

founder, managing partner | Francis Law Firm

Raleigh

A Princeton University and Duke University School of Law graduate, Francis was a federal prosecutor before opening his firm. He is a former Raleigh City Council member and a founding director of North State Bank.

KIMBERLY BULLOCK GATLING

partner, chief diversity and inclusion officer | Fox Rothschild

Greensboro

A graduate of N.C. A&T State University and George Washington University, Gatling, 46, joined a Fox Rothschild predecessor firm in 2001. She chairs the United Way board and serves on the Cone Health Foundation board of directors.

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CLARK GOODMAN

managing partner | Womble Bond Dickinson

Charlotte

With more than 25 years of experience, including intellectual property and telecommunications-franchise specialties, Goodman is Charlotte office managing partner and leads its business-litigation practice group. He is a Duke University and Harvard University Law School graduate. Womble Bond has more than 950 lawyers in 19 U.S. and eight U.K. offices.

STEPHEN GRABENSTEIN

president | Van Winkle Law Firm

Asheville

A graduate of the University of Tennessee School of Law, Grabenstein leads a firm of more than 35 lawyers. He joined Van Winkle in 1992 after working as an assistant attorney general in Tennessee. He focuses his practice on trusts, estates and other fiduciary-related claims.

THOMAS GRIFFIN III

managing partner | Parker Poe

Charlotte

Griffin, 62, focuses on the energy industry, practicing in environmental, litigation and renewable energy. He is a graduate of Wake Forest University and University of Virginia School of Law.

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ROBERT HARRINGTON

partner | Robinson Bradshaw

Charlotte

North Carolina Lawyers Weekly’s 2017 Lawyer of the Year, Harrington, 58, chairs the firm’s litigation department, representing corporate clients in a variety of business matters. He has bachelor’s and law degrees from Duke University and has been a president of the Mecklenburg County Bar.

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HARPER HECKMAN

member | Nexsen Pruet board of directors

Greensboro

Heckman, 55, is one of three North Carolinians inducted into the American College of Construction Lawyers. He has bachelor’s and law degrees from UNC Chapel Hill.

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MARK HOLT

partner | Holt Sherlin

Raleigh

President of the North Carolina Bar Association and North Carolina Bar Foundation, Holt has practiced for more than 30 years. Named to Business North Carolina’s Legal Elite, he is a Wake Forest University and UNC School of Law graduate.

PATRICIA HOSMER

partner | McGuireWoods

Charlotte

A member of the firm’s executive committee, Hosmer is a Yale University and UNC School of Law graduate. Her practice is focused on transactions involving aviation and other equipment. Chambers USA included her in its America’s Leading Lawyers for Business from 2016 to 2019. McGuireWoods has nearly 1,000 lawyers, according to the National Law Journal.

TERRY HUTCHENS

managing partner | Hutchens Law Firm

Fayetteville

Leading a 200-employee firm with more than 35 lawyers that he started 41 years ago, Hutchens focuses his practice on real estate matters. He is a graduate of N.C. State University and earned his MBA and law degrees from Wake Forest University.

BETH TYNER JONES

office managing partner | Womble Bond Dickinson

Raleigh

Jones, 57, leads the international firm’s education and school law team. The Best Lawyers in America has recognized her work since 2015. She has bachelor’s and law degrees from Campbell University, where she was the first female student government president.

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C. MATTHEW KEEN

managing shareholder | Ogletree Deakins

Raleigh

A lecturer and contributor to North Carolina Employers’ Desk Manual, Keen has practiced labor and employment law for more than 30 years. He is a graduate of N.C. State University and UNC School of Law.

DAVID KIRBY

founding partner | Edwards Kirby

Raleigh

Kirby, 70, has handled many high-profile cases as a longtime partner of former U.S. Sen. John Edwards. He has bachelor’s and law degrees from UNC Chapel Hill.

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BYRON KIRKLAND

managing partner | Smith Anderson

Raleigh

Kirkland, 60, works with venture-capital and private-equity funds and companies from many sectors at the largest Triangle-based law firm. He has bachelor’s and law degrees from UNC Chapel Hill.

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PAUL LAWRENCE

managing partner | Hedrick Gardner Kincheloe & Garofalo

Charlotte

Lawrence, 60, focuses his practice on civil litigation, employment law and workers’ compensation. He is a University of Scranton and Villanova University School of Law graduate.

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VALECIA MCDOWELL

partner | Moore & Van Allen

Charlotte

The first black female lawyer hired at the state’s largest law firm in 1998, McDowell, 47, co-chairs the firm’s white-collar, regulatory defense and investigations practice and is a former chair of the Charlotte Arts & Science Council. She has bachelor’s and law degrees from Duke University.

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DAN MCLAMB

founding partner | Yates, McLamb & Weyher

Raleigh

With a practice focused on commercial litigation and professional liability defense, McLamb is senior counsel to the firm that he helped start. He is a graduate of UNC Chapel Hill and UNC School of Law.

TOM MITCHELL

chair, management committee | Moore & Van Allen

Charlotte

Mitchell, 57, is chairman of the firm’s management committee and co-chairs its financial-services practice group and business development committee. A member of the firm since 1993, he has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Illinois and is a Washington and Lee University School of Law graduate. He specializes in loan syndications.

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JARED MOBLEY

managing partner | K&L Gates

Charlotte

Named to Best Lawyers in America for tax-law work, Mobley leads the firm’s estate planning and trusts and estates group. He is a University of South Carolina, University of South Carolina School of Law and New York University School of Law graduate. K&L Gates has nearly 1,700 lawyers and ranked as the 13th largest U.S. law firm, according to the National Law Journal.

MARIFRANCES MORRISON

shareholder | Ogletree Deakins

Raleigh

A member of the national firm’s nine-member board of directors, Morrison works with Fortune 500 businesses on immigration issues. A frequently requested presenter on the topic, she also provides customized training to companies. She is a graduate of the University of Massachusetts and New England School of Law.

LESLIE PACKER

managing partner | Ellis & Winters

Raleigh

Packer, 59, practices in civil and high-end commercial litigation with a specialty in health care product liability. The graduate of Brown University and UNC School of Law serves on the N.C. Association of Defense Attorneys’ board of directors.

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REID PHILLIPS

managing partner | Brooks Pierce

Greensboro

Phillips, 68, succeeded Ed Winslow as managing partner of the firm in 2016. He is a litigation attorney on a variety of  matters including antitrust and copyright. He has a bachelor’s degree from UNC Chapel Hill and is a graduate of the University of Texas School of Law.

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ALLEN ROBERTSON

managing partner | Robinson Bradshaw

Charlotte

The Harvard University Law School graduate is one of two North Carolinians to be president of the National Association of Bond Lawyers. The firm’s managing partner since 2015 and a member since 1989, he advises health care providers, educational institutions, banks and broker-dealers.

PERRY SAFRAN

president | Safran Law Offices

Raleigh

The construction law specialist is a trustee at N.C. State University and vice chair of the N.C. Turnpike Authority. He has a bachelor’s from N.C. State University, an MBA from Wake Forest University and a law degree from Campbell University.

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JASON SOLOMON

partner-in-charge | Alston & Bird

Charlotte

The corporate law specialist earned a bachelor’s at UNC Chapel Hill and a law degree at Washington and Lee University. He practiced law in Delaware before coming to Charlotte in 2004. Alston & Bird is an international law firm with about 800 lawyers and based in Atlanta.

WYATT STEVENS

partner | Roberts & Stevens

Asheville

Stevens, 51, represents a diverse clientele, including the recreational sports industry. He has bachelor’s and law degrees from UNC Chapel Hill.

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MARSHALL WALL

managing partner | Cranfill Sumner & Hartzog

Raleigh

Part of the first class of North Carolina lawyers certified in privacy and information security, Wall, 46, is a graduate of UNC Chapel Hill and Campbell University Law School.

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DEVON WILLIAMS

co-managing director | Ward and Smith

Raleigh

A graduate of the University of Maryland with a Campbell University law degree, Williams, 34, specializes in labor and employment law. She also is a member of the hemp law practice group.

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KEVIN WILLIAMS

president | Bell Davis Pitt

Winston-Salem

A member of the firm for more than 20 years, Williams assists clients with business, commercial, professional negligence and fiduciary disputes, representing them in federal and state courts. He is a UNC Chapel Hill and Wake Forest University School of Law graduate. Bell Davis Pitt has about 35 lawyers.

JAMES WYATT III

partner | Wyatt & Blake

Charlotte

Wyatt, 63, specializes in white-collar defense, whistleblower cases and class-action cases. He is a Vanderbilt University and Duke University School of Law graduate.

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JAMES YATES JR.

managing partner | Wyrick Robbins Yates & Ponton

Raleigh

With more than 40 years at the firm, Yates, 67, handles private-equity transactions for investors and companies, along with corporate transactions such as mergers and joint ventures. He is a UNC Chapel Hill and UNC School of Law graduate.

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