Friday, May 24, 2024

Shana Fulton


When Shana Fulton was a student at UNC Chapel Hill, she asked a political science professor, Jeffrey Obler, to write a letter of recommendation for graduate school.

Obler said no. “I was shocked,” remembers Fulton, a Morehead Scholar. “I was about to pass out.” Instead, Obler told Fulton he would write her a letter of recommendation for law school, which she hadn’t considered. Fulton used that letter in her successful application to Columbia University in New York.

Fulton now ranks as a leader in her field, having been included in “The Best Lawyers in America” in the commercial litigation section for the last four years. She’s also been featured in Business North Carolina’s “Legal Elite” in criminal law.

Fulton says she gained her love of justice from her parents. Her father, Earnest, was a major in the Air Force and flew B-52s in the Vietnam War. Her mother, Phyllis, was a social worker. “Public service has always been important,” she says. “Being a military brat contributed to that.” She grew up in Indiana, Idaho, England and West Germany.

Fulton’s family moved to Garner from South Carolina when she was a sophomore in high school. At UNC, she graduated with highest honors in English and political science and was inducted into the Order of the Golden Fleece, the oldest and highest honorary at the university. At Columbia, she was a Harlan Fisk Stone Scholar and articles editor of the Columbia Human Rights Law Review. She also made it clear to her classmates she was “appalled and upset” over New York City’s version of barbecue.

After graduation, Fulton worked for the Williams & Connolly law firm in Washington, D.C., handling criminal and civil litigation. She then spent more than a decade as an assistant U.S. attorney in Washington, handling criminal cases. Among her successful prosecutions were a 2015 murder in the Donovan Hotel and the “Double Hammer” homicide case, a love triangle gone bad. She was pregnant during the latter case.

In early 2018, she and her husband, Tom Finigan, a real estate broker, moved back to North Carolina, where she joined the Brooks Pierce firm. “I think D.C. is an awesome place,” says Fulton. “But if you looked at my Facebook posts from then, I was all about what was going on in North Carolina. My heart has always been in this state.”

Fulton specializes in white-collar cases as well as complex civil litigation. “I’m interested in justice, period,” she says. “There has to be just actions happening on both sides for the system to work properly. Everybody has to do their job right in a just manner that is fair to everybody. That philosophy hasn’t changed for me.”

She also likes handling internal investigations for corporations and government entities. “It’s not only what went wrong, but how to possibly fix what went wrong and not let it happen again,” she says. “I could be talking at the board level and to leadership about corporate governance and responsibility.”

Returning to North Carolina has been the right decision, Fulton says. “It’s not the same place that it was when I graduated from UNC in 1998,” she notes. “It’s such a fascinating and complex state. To be back here in the middle of this great hub of positive energy is really cool.”


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Chris Roush
Chris Roush
Chris Roush is executive editor of Business North Carolina. He can be reached at

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