Monday, May 27, 2024

Power List 2023: Law

Kerry Abrams
Stacy Ackermann
Sherrod Banks
Catherine Barnes
Steve Berlin
Ashley Brathwaite
Dan Cahill
Lois Colbert
Nathan Duggins

Bradley Evans
Todd Eveson
Kimberly Bullock Gatling
Stuart Goldstein
Clark Goodman
Thomas N. Griffin III
Denise Gunter
Robert Harrington
Terry Hutchens

Beth Tyner Jones
Byron Kirkland
Paul Lawrence
Valecia McDowell
Tom Mitchell
Jared Mobley
Clayton Morgan
Reid Phillips
Allen Robertson

Perry Safran
Jason Solomon
Wyatt Stevens
Marshall Wall
Mona Lisa Wallace
Kevin Williams
Devon Williams*
James Wyatt III


co-managing director |
Ward and Smit

Devon Williams regularly counsels human resources executives and C-suite officers
to keep them out of costly litigation and help them create a more positive
workplace culture.

Williams serves with Bradley Evans as
co-managing partners of the law firm, which has about 90 attorneys with offices in Asheville, Greenville, New Bern, Raleigh and Wilmington. The firm traces its roots back to 1895 and now includes more than 30 practice areas.  

Williams’ practice is focused on labor and employment issues, including terminations, federal contractor compliance, employment discrimination, harassment, and retaliation claims. She is also part of the firm’s Hemp Law practice group, where she helps clients in the agribusiness, hemp and CBD industries navigate changing rules amid increasing legalization.

The Campbell University Law School graduate was a standout high school and college athlete. In 2022, the Salisbury-Rowan Sports Hall of Fame selected her to be the 13th woman to enter the group. At West Rowan High School, Williams pitched and played third base on the Falcons’ softball team, earning MVP honors while leading the team to 2002 and 2003 state championships. The team finished runner-up in her senior year. She also was a four-year starter at the University of Maryland.

Favorite family tradition: Enjoying my mom’s breakfast pizza with my entire family
on Christmas morning. 

Favorite N.C. place to visit: Asheville and anywhere on the coast are always favorites, as is my family’s farm around Cleveland, North Carolina, where I grew up.

What do you listen to on your commute: I bounce back and forth between country, pop, and news podcasts.

Career highlight: Having the trust and confidence of my law partners to co-lead our 270+ employee, five-office, statewide law firm.

Favorite hobby: Watch “Jeopardy” with my husband and our daughter.

Best advice for industry newcomers: Find a good mentor, work hard, and actively develop good working relationships with colleagues, clients, and opposing counsel.

Key industry change in next five years: For law firms, that change is the successful integration of AI into law practice, while acknowledging its limitations and privacy and security concerns.


dean | Duke University School of Law

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor has cited Abrams’ work in her rulings. The  English major at Swarthmore College received a law degree from Stanford University. She was vice provost and a professor at the University of Virginia before joining Duke  in 2018. The school enrolled 225 first-year students last year and 285 during the previous year. 


partner | K&L Gates

Ackermann is the finance practice leader at the national law firm, representing investors, lenders, servicers and other market participants. She is a frequent lecturer on commercial real-estate financing. The Furman University graduate earned her law degree at the University of South Carolina. She joined the firm in 2012. 


founder | Banks Law Group

The UNC Chapel Hill grad practices law in commercial and real estate, business litigation, partnerships and private placement stock options. He previously chaired the Governing Committee of the American Bar Association Forum on Affordable Housing and Community Development Law, He is an adjunct law professor at UNC Chapel Hill, where he earned bachelor’s and law degrees.


managing partner | James, McElroy & Diehl

Barnes works with clients involved in business continuation planning, mergers and acquisitions, and other issues ranging from real estate negotiations with lenders, commercial leases, zoning issues and non-compete agreements. She has a law degree from UNC Chapel Hill. Her most famous partner, Bill Diehl, died at age 78 in December.


partner | Kilpatrick Townsend 

Berlin’s 35-plus years at his firm includes service in various areas of environmental law. The Wake Forest University graduate serves on the UNC School of the Arts board of trustees and chairs the Winston-Salem and Forsyth County Arts Council board
of trustees. 

Favorite family tradition: Lovefeast during the Christmas season.

Favorite place to visit in North Carolina: North Carolina Zoo or Blue Ridge Parkway.

What do you listen to on your commute: Audiobooks, podcast, and ESPN radio.

Major inspiration: People who collaboratively, mobilize to get things done.

Favorite hobby: Anything outside, gardening and hiking.

Best advice for industry newcomers: Get
involved and stay involved in your community.


president | North Carolina Association
of Defense Attorneys | Ellis & Winters

Brathwaite leads the trade group representing defense attorneys, reflecting her experience representing clients in the insurance, health care, real estate and manufacturing sectors. The Furman University graduate worked in marketing and public affairs for a large South Carolina hospital before attending Campbell University School
of Law. 


managing partner | Poyner Spruill

The lifelong Raleigh resident, who chairs the Greater Raleigh Area Chamber, represents banks, companies, and local governments in commercial disputes in state and federal courts and alternative dispute resolution. He is a Wake Forest University School of Law graduate and has an undergraduate degree from
UNC Chapel Hill.


partner | Kilpatrick Townsend and Stockton

The University of Michigan law graduate is  leader of the national law firm’s employee benefits practice group.  She has been recognized by Super Lawyers, Best Lawyers in America and other professional journals and has been singled out as one of Charlotte’s most influential women.


managing partner | Tuggle Duggins

The Wake Forest University law graduate leads the law firm formed by his father, Jim, and Richard Tuggle in 1974. He represents clients in construction, real estate and complex business disputes. He’s on the board of the Guilford Merchants Association, Greensboro Chamber of Commerce and Wake Forest School of Law.


co-managing director | Ward and Smith 

Evans grew up in Ahoskie and earned bachelor’s and law degrees at Wake Forest University. He litigates cases and advises clients involving intellectual property disputes and commercial, business, estate and professional licensing issues. He is a certified Superior Court mediator who says there’s no place better to live than eastern North Carolina.

Favorite N.C. place to visit: Warm months  — Emerald Isle; Cool months — our cabin in Bertie County.

What do you listen to on your commute: A combination of public radio news and the Grateful Dead channel on Sirius XM.

Major inspiration: Our firm has about 250 employees that are my daily inspiration.  Every day I am driven to work hard to help provide professional satisfaction and security for them and for their families.

Favorite hobby: Offshore fishing. There is no better escape from daily life than trolling the Atlantic Ocean well out of cellphone range.

Best advice for industry newcomers: Look for meaning in your life’s work that energizes and motivates you. The practice of law is a profession, not simply a job. We have opportunities to help people during some
of the most challenging times in their lives. Finding
the reward in those opportunities for service makes the challenge worthwhile.


managing partner |
Wyrick Robbins Yates & Ponton LLP

The Duke University graduate earned his law degree at UNC Chapel Hill. His work centers on securities law, mergers and acquisitions, corporate law and banking law. Eveson, 47, also chairs the firm’s executive committee. He joined Wyrick Robbins after it bought his former firm, Gaeta and Eveson, in 2013.  

Favorite family tradition: There are several, and they are all food related. 

Favorite N.C. place to visit: Being back home in Charlotte will always be my favorite.

What do you listen to on your commute: I’d love to say it’s Bloomberg or NPR, but the truth is that it’s usually classic rock. 

Major inspiration: My parents are two of the hardest-working, most grounded people I ever encountered.

Career highlight: At Wyrick Robbins, we’re working on significant matters for vibrant clients on a daily basis. It’s more like a team highlight reel.

Best advice for industry newcomers: Find yourself a good mentor and make yourself indispensable.


partner, chief diversity and
inclusion officer | Fox Rothschild

The George Washington University law graduate focuses on protecting clients’ ideas in intellectual property and data security issues. She’s the firm’s chief diversity and inclusion officer. Gatling has an electrical engineering degree from N.C. A&T State University. She is a director
at Cone Health and Truliant Federal Credit Union.


managing partner | Cadwalader

Goldstein’s practice focuses on structured finance. A graduate of the University of California-Berkeley law school, he co-chairs the firm’s capital markets practice and is a management committee member. He received the 2019 Alzheimer’s Association Award of Excellence for his continuous support of the organization’s Western Carolina chapter. 


managing partner | Latitude Legal

A Harvard Law School graduate, Goodman left a top post at the giant Womble Bond Dickinson firm to join the national company that supplies lawyers to many Fortune 500 companies and others. He also teaches law at Wake Forest University.

Favorite N.C. place to visit: Topsail Island

Major inspiration: I’m inspired by individuals who have chosen to protect, defend, and save human lives and liberty, such as first responders, medical professionals, law enforcement, and those who serve in the military.

Favorite hobby after work: Anything with my family. My hobbies are golf and guitar.

Best advice for industry newcomers: Take time to understand, as much as possible, the full scope of the profession so that you can find the right place in the profession for you.

Key industry change in next five years: The rapid evolution of artificial intelligence tools will force the industry to find the proper balance between tasks that can be completed more efficiently through the use of technology/AI and tasks that require human judgment, nuance, and creativity.


managing partner | Parker Poe

A University of Virginia law school grad, Griffin says in environmental law, results count more than venue. Early in his career, he was an attorney with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Since then, he has handled water, endangered species, wetlands and similar issues in the last 30 years, often collaborating with federal agencies.


managing partner | Nelson Mullins

The George Washington School of Law grad handles a variety of cases involving antitrust matters, government investigations, and mergers and acquisitions. Nelson Mullins has more than 1,000 lawyers at 30-plus offices. She’s the former board chair of The Fellowship Home of Winston-Salem, which provides transitional housing for men with substance use disorders.


partner | Robinson Bradshaw

The Duke University law school grad is a past Mecklenburg County Bar president who was named Lawyer of the Year by N.C. Lawyers Weekly in 2017. He represents corporate clients in trade, contract and various business disputes. Harrington co-chairs the firm’s litigation department.

Favorite family tradition: Summer vacation at Kiawah Island, South Carolina.

Favorite N.C. place to visit: Duke University’s campus 

What do you listen to on your commute: Jazz

Major inspiration: My two granddaughters because they represent the future. 

Key industry change in next five years: Further application of artificial intelligence to law practice
and greater need to differentiate between AI and
human services. 


managing partner | Hutchens Law Firm

Hutchens graduated from N.C. State University and has law and MBA degrees from Wake Forest University. His firm employs about 250 people in about
10 offices. Hutchens focuses on business law, often representing banks and mortgage firms. He’s a member of the UNC Board of Governors.

Favorite family tradition: Rosalind and I have four children and nine grandchildren. It’s a real crowd when we all get together for holidays. The grandchildren are amazing and hilarious. I don’t think I am ever happier.

Favorite N.C. place to visit: Lake Waccamaw

Major inspiration: Showing that I can when I am told I can’t.

Favorite hobby after work: Drink old single malt and even older Bordeaux’s.

Best advice to industry newcomer: Always be prepared. Be civil and trustworthy in your interactions with other lawyers. Engage in your community. Don’t worry about how much money you are or aren’t making. Instead, concentrate on doing a good job for your clients and the money will come.

Career highlight: In my law practice, I represented a fellow in an age-discrimination case against the state forestry department. My client was poor, had little formal education and worked on farms until he got his state job. He looked much older than his 57 years.

During the government’s direct examination of my
client’s supervisor, the witness testified that my client didn’t have enough sense to run a lawn mower. A juror on the front row leaned over the railing and in a loud voice said “bull@#$.” Very few people in the courtroom could stop laughing.

The judge took a recess and back in his chambers said, “Well Terry, I think you have juror No. 7.” It got worse for the defendants from there.

At the end of the trial, the jury returned after a relatively short time. They awarded my client every dime and benefit that could legally be recovered. At the bottom of the jury sheet, the foreman wrote, “More on back.”
It was a list of additional damages sought by the jury, including raises, bonuses, money and benefits beyond what I had requested, an apology and the dismissal of
my client’s supervisor.


managing partner | Womble Bond Dickinson 

Jones’ former role as a human-resources executive for a large pharmaceutical company and as a college faculty member was a good prep for leading Womble Bond Dickinson’s education, school-law and employment and pensions service teams. She has bachelor’s and law degrees from Campbell University.

Favorite N.C. place to visit: Mountains 

What do you listen to on your commute: Making calls to family members to catch up or NPR. 

Major inspiration: My clients are predominantly colleges and universities. They do transformative work. It’s a privilege to play a small role in support of that critically important work.  

Favorite hobby after work: Cycling and shooting hoops.

Best advice for industry newcomers: Focus on understanding, deeply, the law from several
excellent attorneys.


managing partner | Smith Anderson

Kirkland’s 35 years in practice includes handling mergers and acquisitions, private- equity transactions, and general securities and corporate law matters. He’s been managing partner since 2020. The UNC Chapel Hill law and MBA grad is a director of the NC TECH trade association. 

Favorite family tradition: Family gatherings at Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Favorite N.C. place to visit: Mountains

What do you listen to on your commute: Radio 

Major inspiration: I find inspiration every day and everywhere whether it be from co-workers, family, books I am reading or life experiences.

Career highlight: Being asked to lead Smith Anderson. 

Favorite hobby after work: I really love going home and spending time with my wife, Ginny. My favorite hobby is cooking.

Best advice for industry newcomers: Invest your time and energy in developing and enjoying relationships.


managing partner | Hedrick Gardner Kincheloe & Garofalo

Lawrence is known for handling workers’ compensation, civil litigation, professional negligence and premises liability and employment-law cases. Included in the Best Lawyers in America listings since 2016, the Villanova law school grad is a former assistant district attorney. He joined Hedrick Gardner in 1994.


partner | Moore & Van Allen 

The Duke University School of Law graduate serves as co-director of the firm’s white collar, regulatory defense and investigations practice, often leading sensitive reviews for major institutions. She also heads the firm’s civil rights and racial equity assessment work. She is a recipient of the Mecklenburg County Bar’s Julius Chambers Diversity Champion Award.



managing partner | K&L Gates

Mobley advises clients on federal, state and local tax matters, as well as private equity, mergers and acquisitions and joint ventures. He holds degrees from both the University of South Carolina School of Law and New York University School of Law. He joined a K&L Gates predecessor in 1999.


associate general counsel | Duke Energy

This year’s president of the N.C. Bar Association, Morgan joined the utility in 1996 and began his role as associate general counsel in 2004. He has a law degree and MBA from Wake Forest University and an undergraduate degree in radiologic science from UNC Chapel Hill. Duke Energy’s chief legal officer is Kodwo Ghartey-Tagoe.


managing partner | Brooks Pierce 

Phillips works on antitrust, copyright and other cases as a litigation lawyer, while leading the law firm that has 109 lawyers with offices in Greensboro, Raleigh and Wilmington. He has a bachelor’s degree from UNC Chapel Hill and a law degree from the University of Texas.

Favorite family tradition: Seeing extended family at the Hancock County Fair in Findlay, Ohio, where we enjoy watching livestock shows.

Favorite N.C. place to visit: No better place for a summer vacation than Cashiers.  

What do you listen to on your commute: NPR

Major inspiration: My mother instilled great values in me, including the joys of hard work and service to others. “Anything worth doing is worth doing well,”
she said.

Career highlight: Successful trial of complicated business case. The trial lasted nine weeks but took two years of preparation.  

Favorite hobby after work: Reading on
the terrace behind our house. Favorite book last year was one everyone in North Carolina should read — “Wastelands” by Corbin Addison.

Best advice for industry newcomers: Never think of anything as merely a task to be completed. Think of it as the start of finding new ways to help the client in all the ways you can. Always relate the task to the bigger picture. That mindset makes work assignments interesting and of greater value to the client.   

Key industry change in next five years: With preferences for remote working, opportunities for collaboration and interaction are reduced. How will
we compensate so that young lawyers are trained
the right way?


managing partner | Robinson Bradshaw

A UNC Chapel Hill Morehead Scholar and Harvard Law School graduate, he is one of only two North Carolina lawyers to serve as president of the National Association of Bond Lawyers. His public finance clients include financial institutions and health care systems.


principal | Safran Law Offices

Safran has practiced law for more than 40 years, focusing on construction law. He has lectured on construction topics as an adjunct professor at Campbell School of Law and N.C. State University. He is a trustee at N.C. State University, a Centennial Authority director and a former Raleigh City Council member N.C. Turnpike Authority director. 

Favorite family tradition: Dinner with our family. 

Favorite N.C. place to visit: The coast

What do you listen to on your commute: News

Major inspiration: Working with our great universities — my very own N.C. State.  

Career highlight: Starting my own business/firm and keeping it going for 40-plus years.

Favorite hobby after work: Long walks with my wife, Susan, to clear my mind. 

Best advice for industry newcomers: Make a plan. The business does not just come to you.

Key industry change in the next five years: Continuing virtual connecting, more conversation and adjusting to the client’s needs, not just how all was done in the past.


partner-in-charge | Alston & Bird

Solomon has a bachelor’s degree from UNC Chapel Hill and a law degree from Washington and Lee University. He practiced corporate law in Delaware before moving to Charlotte. He represented the trustee and agents
in a $1.3 billion debt offering for a telecommunications giant. Alston & Bird has more than 800
lawyers globally. 


partner | Roberts & Stevens

The Asheville native and UNC Chapel Hill graduate has more than 25 years of experience in personal injury and commercial litigation. The firm was formed in 1986 by a merger led by his father, Jack Stevens. He is a member of the Association of Ski Defense Attorneys. 

Favorite family tradition: Dinner with our family.  

Favorite N.C. place to visit: Big Yellow Mountain in the Roan Highlands. 

What do you listen to on your commute: Blue Ridge Public Radio. 

Major inspiration: My parents lived their lives with integrity and goodness.

Career highlight: Making shareholder status at Roberts & Stevens. 

Favorite hobby: Run or walk with friends.  

Best advice for industry newcomers: Try your best and do the right thing every time.

Key industry change in the next five years: Massive growth and competition. 


managing partner | Cranfill Sumner

The Raleigh native was part of the first class to be certified by North Carolina State Bar as a specialist in privacy and information security. He is a graduate of UNC Chapel Hill and Campbell University School of Law. The firm has more than 75 lawyers with offices in Charlotte, Raleigh and Wilmington. 

Favorite N.C. place to visit: Ocean Isle Beach

What do you listen to on your commute: Podcasts, mostly nerdy ones about things like economics.

Favorite hobby after work: Running

Best advice for industry newcomers:
You don’t know much yet. Take any opportunity to learn and listen. 


founding partner | Wallace & Graham

The Rowan County native and Wake Forest School of Law graduate is a nationally known personal injury lawyer who says she has a “relentless quest for justice.”  Her work on behalf of neighbors of Smithfield Foods’ Bladen County plant was featured in the book “Wastelands.” She has specialized in representing victims of occupational-related cancers.


president | Bell Davis Pitt

A Wake Forest University law graduate who grew up in Elizabeth City, Williams has practiced at the firm since 1998, representing corporations and individuals in contract disputes, professional negligence, product liability and trademark infringement. The firm has more than 30 lawyers in Winston-Salem and Charlotte.


managing partner and founder | Wyatt & Blake

Wyatt, a graduate of Vanderbilt University and
Duke University School of Law, specializes in whistleblower, class-action and white collar defense litigation. Early in his career, he worked with Bobby Lee Cook Sr., the Summerville, Georgia, lawyer who was the inspiration for the “Matlock” television series featuring Andy Griffith. 


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