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Area Attorneys Land On Legal Elite List

By Staff Reports, posted Apr 24, 2015
There were 641 lawyers who made Business North Carolina magazine’s Legal Elite list this year – a record number of ballots for the magazine’s annual list, now in its 14th year. That figure represents about 3 percent of all attorneys in the state, according to the publication. The group included 36 Wilmington-area lawyers.

To compile the annual list Business North Carolina asks the 22,000 active N.C. State Bar members to vote for their recommendations of top lawyers.

Lawyers were not able to vote for themselves. They were allowed to vote for members from their own firms only by voting for another out-of-firm lawyer in the same category. The vote for the out-of-firm lawyer was weighed more heavily.

Here are the local attorneys who made the 2015 list:

CHARLES S.BALDWIN IV
Category: Legal Elite-Business (overall category winner and becomes a member of Business North Carolina’s Legal Elite Hall of Fame)
Firm: Brooks Pierce McLendon Humphrey & Leonard
Title: Partner
Education: UNC Chapel Hill (B.A.); American University (J.D. and M.A.); Georgetown University Law Center (LL.M.)
Career highlights: Baldwin helps people identify and create value in various projects, including international transactions, marine terminal and real estate developments, start-up, technology and venture capital deals and dispute resolution. He also serves as village attorney for Bald Head Island. He said that some of his most rewarding work includes helping nonprofit organizations on a pro bono basis with corporate, construction and transactional matters.
Areas of focus: International/transportation, transactional, municipal
 
YOEL H. BALTER
Category: Legal Elite-Corporate Counsel
Firm: Liberty Healthcare Corp.
Title: Vice president and general counsel
Education: University of Pennsylvania (B.A.); UNC Chapel Hill (J.D.)
Career highlights: “Serving as in-house counsel, I have been fortunate to have spent my career working with a dedicated team of intelligent, ethical, experienced and passionate professionals. My clients communicate the mission and responsibility of being health care providers every day. This organizational culture provides an exceptionally strong foundation upon which I provide legal guidance in an interesting and wide variety of areas of the law,” Balter said.
Areas of focus: Health law, employment law, corporate governance, transactions and financing
 
CHRISTOPHER K. BEHM      
Category: Legal Elite-Construction; Litigation (Also named to Super Lawyers-Construction Litigation)
Firm: Block Crouch Keeter Behm & Sayed
Title: Partner
Education: Guilford College (A.B); Wake Forest University (J.D.)
Career highlights: Behm has been a partner with Block, Crouch, Keeter, Behm & Sayed since 2005. He previously was an associate attorney with Block, Crouch & Keeter and with Howard, Stallings, From & Hutson in Raleigh.
Areas of focus: Civil, commercial, construction, homeowners association (HOA), trust and estates, real estate, products liability, and personal injury matters in federal and state courts

ALGERNON L. BUTLER III
Category: Legal Elite-Bankruptcy (Also named to Super Lawyers-Bankruptcy: Business)
Firm: Butler & Butler
Title: Managing partner
Education: UNC Chapel Hill (A.B. and J.D.)
Career highlights: Butler represents businesses and individuals, debtor and creditors, in bankruptcy cases and in connection with non-bankruptcy alternatives, workouts and debt restructuring. Butler also serves as a Chapter 7 panel trustee for the U.S. Bankruptcy Court (EDNC) and as receiver in state court proceedings. He has served several terms as a director of the Bankruptcy Section of the N.C. Bar Association and currently serves as vice chairman of the local rules committee for the U.S. Bankruptcy Court (EDNC).  
Areas of focus: Financial and insolvency advice, bankruptcy avoidance, non-bankruptcy workouts, pre-bankruptcy planning
 
JAMES O. CARTER JR.
Category: Legal Elite-Bankruptcy
Firm: Carter & Carter
Title: Partner
Education: Wake Forest University (B.A. and J.D.)
Career highlights: Carter has been listed in Business North Carolina’s Legal Elite in bankruptcy for over 10 years. He served as a bankruptcy trustee in Chapter 7 and Chapter 11 cases for 25 years for the U.S. Bankruptcy Court (EDNC). He and his firm, Carter & Carter, currently handle commercial litigation, corporate matters, creditor and debtor bankruptcy matters, real estate and estate planning.
Areas of focus: Bankruptcy, business litigation, creditor and debtor bankruptcy rights, corporate matters and disputes
 
CHRIS CHLEBOROWICZ
Category: Legal Elite-Construction
Firm: Chleborowicz Law Firm
Title: Sole practitioner
Education: Wake Forest University (B.A., B.S. and J.D.)
Career highlights: Chleborowicz has developed his practice in civil litigation, prosecuting and/or defending cases in state and federal courts in both North and South Carolina as well as Texas, Virginia, New Jersey and Florida. He has handled a wide variety of litigation matters including large-scale, multi-family and single-family construction defects and contract disputes. He has successfully tried cases in both jury and non-jury settings, arbitration (including AAA) and administrative settings and has taken cases to the N.C. Court of Appeals.
Areas of focus: Construction defects
 
ROBBY COLLINS
Category: Legal Elite-Real Estate
Firm: Collins & Collins Law Offices
Title: Managing attorney
Education: NCSU (B.S.), Wake Forest University (J.D.)
Career highlights: Collins & Collins Law Offices PLLC is a local, family run, law practice started in 2000 by brothers Robby and Andy Collins. Since then, Collins & Collins has focused on transactional real estate law, providing a relaxed atmosphere with a professional closing for thousands of clients purchasing or refinancing their homes. 
Areas of focus: Real estate transactions
 
AULEY M. CROUCH III
Category: Legal Elite-Construction; Litigation (Also named to Super Lawyers-General Litigation)
Firm: Block Crouch Keeter Behm & Sayed
Title: Partner
Education: Citadel (B.S.); John Marshall Law School (J.D.)
Career highlights: Crouch has been a Superior Court mediator and arbitrator since 1993. His representative reported cases include: Sevigny v. Dicksey; Marina Food Associates Inc. v. Marina Restaurant Inc.; and Williams v. Houses of Distinction Inc.
Areas of focus: General civil, including commercial/business disputes, construction litigation, personal injury and condemnation in federal and state courts
 
FRED B. DAVENPORT JR.
Category: Legal Elite-Business
Firm: Murchison Taylor & Gibson
Title: Member (partner)
Education: UNC Chapel Hill (B.A., J.D. and MBA)
Career highlights: Davenport joined Murchison, Taylor & Gibson in 1977, practicing business and corporate law at the firm until 1996 when he left to serve as general counsel for PPD until 2001. He was president of PPD from 2002 to 2006, and returned to Murchison, Taylor & Gibson in 2008.
Areas of focus: Business and corporate law, mergers and acquisitions, life sciences and estate planning
 
G. STEPHEN DIAB
Category: Legal Elite-Business (Also named to Super Lawyers-Tax)
Firm: Murchison Taylor & Gibson
Title: Member/Partner
Education: UNC Chapel Hill (B.S. and J.D.)
Career highlights: Diab was included in Business North Carolina’s Legal Elite 2003 to 2012 and again in 2014 and this year. He is a certified public accountant and member of the N.C. Association of Certified Public Accountants. Diab has served on the boards of directors for the New Hanover Regional Medical Center Foundation, Hill School of Wilmington Inc., Wilmington West Rotary Club and The Eshelman Foundation. He chaired the UNCW Foundation from 2003 to 2005.
Areas of focus: Mergers and acquisitions, trusts and estates, corporate law and business and tax planning
 
JANET L. GEMMELL
Category: Legal Elite-Family Law (Also named to Super Lawyers/Rising Stars-Family Law)
Firm: Cape Fear Family Law
Title: Attorney
Education: UNCW (B.A.); Campbell University (J.D.)
Career highlights: Gemmell is a contributing writer and public speaker on divorce law topics for local publications and has been featured in national magazines. She also teaches continuing legal education classes for other attorneys throughout the state. She loves working with divorcing clients and helping them through the process of divorce.
Areas of focus: Divorce and family law, board-certified family law specialist
 
JAMIE S. GETTY
Category: Legal Elite-Young Guns
Firm: Block, Crouch, Keeter, Behm, & Sayed
Title: Associate
Education: Salem College (B.A.); Elon University (J.D.)
Career highlights: Getty has been an associate attorney at Block, Crouch, Keeter, Behm & Sayed since 2012. She was previously an associate attorney at Speaks Law Firm.
Areas of focus: Family law and civil litigation
 
NANCY M. GUYTON
Category: Legal Elite-Real Estate
Firm: Morgan & Carter
Title: Attorney
Education: Smith College (A.B.); UNC Chapel Hill
(J.D.)
Career highlights: Guyton has been a board-certified specialist in real property transactions: residential, business, commercial and industrial since 1995. She previously worked as general counsel for Zimmer Development Company. Guyton is on the board of directors for Cape Fear CREW and Coastal Women Attorneys. She also is a member of Real Property Council, N.C. Bar Association (1999-2002), the N.C. Bar Association and the N.C. Association of Women Attorneys. Guyton is chairwoman of Craven National Invitational Moot Court Competition.
Areas of focus: Guyton has been a board-certified specialist in real property transactions: residential, business, commercial and industrial since 1995. She previously worked as general counsel for Zimmer Development Company. Guyton is on the board of directors for Cape Fear CREW and Coastal Women Attorneys. She also is a member of Real Property Council, N.C. Bar Association (1999-2002), the N.C. Bar Association and the N.C. Association of Women Attorneys. Guyton is chairwoman of Craven National Invitational Moot Court Competition.
 
MARK H. HAMLET
Category: Legal Elite-Construction (Also named to Super Lawyers-Construction Litigation)
Firm: Hamlet & Associates
Title: Managing Partner
Education: Wake Forest University (B.A.); Campbell University (J.D.)
Career highlights: Hamlet worked for several years with a large, regional firm representing clients from local contractors to Fortune 500 companies.  He formed his own firm in 2012 with four associate attorneys.
Areas of focus: Construction, litigation
 
JUSTIN K. HUMPHRIES
Category: Legal Elite-Young Guns (Also named to Super Lawyers/Rising Stars-Business/Corporate)
Firm: Humphries & King
Title: Partner
Education: University of South Carolina (B.S.); Campbell University (J.D.)
Career highlights: Humphries is dually licensed in North Carolina and South Carolina. He has appeared before the N.C. Court of Appeals on three occasions and has practiced maritime law in federal courts in Virginia and North Carolina.
Areas of focus: Business litigation
 
JEFFREY P. KEETER
Category: Legal Elite-Business; Real Estate; Tax and Estate Planning
Firm: Block, Crouch, Keeter, Behm, & Sayed
Title: Partner
Education: Campbell University (B.S. and J.D.)
Career highlights: Keeter is a partner with Block, Crouch, Keeter, Behm & Sayed and previously was partner with Carr, Swails, Huffine, Crouch & Keeter as well as with Rountree & Seagle.
Areas of focus: Real estate acquisition and development (commercial and residential); corporate/business law including mergers and acquisitions; zoning and land use law; estate planning including wills and trusts; and estate administration
 
HENRY L. KITCHIN JR.
Category: Legal Elite-Litigation (Also named to Super Lawyers-Business Litigation)
Firm: McGuireWoods
Title: Partner
Education: UNC Chapel Hill (B.A.); Wake Forest University (J.D.)
Career highlights: Kitchin concentrates his practice on business and real estate litigation. He represents plaintiffs and defendants in real estate disputes and business, antitrust and breach of contract cases. He also represents creditors in creditors’ rights and bankruptcy cases and defends lenders in predatory lending and lender liability suits.
Areas of focus: Business litigation, real estate transactions and disputes, financial services and bankruptcy
 
GILBERT C. LAITE III 
Category: Legal Elite-Construction
Firm: Williams Mullen
Title: Partner
Education: University of Maine (B.S.); Wake Forest University (J.D.)
Career highlights: Laite graduated with honors from law school at Wake Forest and served two years as a law clerk to the U.S. District Court. He then entered private practice with the Maupin Taylor firm in Raleigh. In the late 1990s, he established the firm’s Wilmington office. Maupin Taylor merged into Williams Mullen in 2006. Laite is AV rated by Martindale Hubbell and listed by Best Lawyers in America in eight categories of practice
Areas of focus: Business, property, construction and financial sector
 
MICHAEL V. LEE
Category: Legal Elite-Real Estate (Also named to Super Lawyers-Real Estate)
Firm: Lee Law Firm
Education: UNC Chapel Hill (B.A.); Wake Forest University (J.D.)
Career highlights: Lee started the Lee Law Firm in 2012. He has earned Martindale-Hubbell’s top rating; Business North Carolina’s Legal Elite 2007, 2009-2015; North Carolina Super Lawyers 2009-2015 and Best of the Best, Top 100 in 2014 N.C. Super Lawyers. He also was included in The Best Lawyers in America, 21st edition. Lee also serves as a North Carolina state senator, representing District 9. He is a former board member of NCDOT and chairman of the N.C. Ports Authority.
 
DAVID G. MARTIN
Category: Legal Elite-Real Estate 
Firm: Smith Moore Leatherwood
Title: Partner-in-charge, Wilmington office
Education: UNC Chapel Hill (B.A.); Campbell University (J.D.); Boston University (LLM, Taxation)
Career highlights: Martin assists clients with the financing and acquisition of real property, development, commercial leasing and the preparation and negotiation of real estate and loan documentation. He also has experience representing lenders in commercial loan transactions, workouts and foreclosures.
Areas of focus: Commercial real estate transactions, real estate finance and loan workouts and foreclosures
 
JEAN SUTTON MARTIN
Category: Legal Elite-Litigation (Also named to Super Lawyers-Personal Injury Products: Plaintiff and Super Lawyer’s N.C. Top 50 Women)
Firm: Law Office of Jean Sutton Martin
Title: Founder
Education: Wake Forest University (B.S.); University of South Carolina (M.I.B.S.); Wake Forest University (J.D.)
Career highlights: Martin has a master’s of international business studies and served as the editor-in-chief of the Wake Forest Law Review. With 17 years of experience in the field, she recently opened her own firm concentrating her practice on consumer class actions, pharmaceutical drug and medical device litigation.
Areas of focus: Complex civil litigation
 
MICHAEL MURCHISON
Category: Legal Elite-Employment
Firm: Murchison Taylor & Gibson
Title: Member
Education: Amherst College (B.A.); Cornell Law School (J.D.)
Career highlights: Murchison has practiced in Wilmington since 1983 at Murchison, Taylor & Gibson and said he considers himself “incredibly lucky to have had the opportunity to work with such an exceptional group of attorneys for such a long period of time.” He works with a number of corporate and individual clients, including many local health care providers and some of the area’s largest employers. “The health care and labor and employment areas are constantly evolving, which keeps my work challenging and interesting,” he said.
Areas of focus: Health law; labor and employment; and civil litigation
 
JILL L. PETERS
Category: Legal Elite-Tax and Estate Planning (Also named to Super Lawyers/Rising Stars-Estate Planning and Probate)
Firm: Smith Moore Leatherwood
Title: Partner
Education: UNCW (B.S.); Wake Forest University (J.D.)
Career highlights: Peters is a member of her trusts and estates team in Smith Moore Leatherwood’s Wilmington office. She assists clients in drafting and executing comprehensive estate plans, with specific emphasis on estate tax, gift tax and charitable gift planning.
Areas of focus: Board-certified
specialist in estate planning and probate law and CPA
 
LEEANNE QUATTRUCCI
Category: Legal Elite-Family Law
Firm: LeeAnne Quattrucci
Title: Attorney at law
Education: Wake Forest University (bachelor’s); UNC Chapel Hill (J.D.)
Career highlights: Quattrucci opened her law practice in 2011. She has been voted Wilmington’s Best Attorney in 2013 and 2014 by Wilmington Magazine and received the Pro Bono Publico Award from Legal Aid of North Carolina for 2012, 2013 and 2014. Quattrucci has been a featured speaker at various CLEs across the country and completed over 100 adoptions since 2011. 
Areas of focus: Family law, juvenile, domestic and immigration
 
WILLIAM A. RANEY JR.
Category:
Legal Elite-Environmental
Firm: Wessel & Raney
Title: Partner
Education: UNC Chapel Hill (B.A. and J.D.)
Career highlights: Raney started the Environmental Protection Section of the N.C. Attorney General’s Office in 1973. He became chief of the Environmental Protection Section in 1976. Raney also is the former chairman of the Environment, Energy and Natural Resources Law Section of the N.C. Bar Association as well as former president of the New Hanover County Bar Association.
Areas of focus: Environmental law
 
WALT RAPP
Category:
Legal Elite-Construction
Firm: Hedrick Gardner Kincheloe & Garofalo
Title: Partner
Education: UNC Chapel Hill (bachelor’s), Wake Forest University (J.D.)
Career highlights: Rapp has been involved in numerous multi-party, large-scale construction cases across eastern North Carolina over the past 10 years. He is currently vice chairman of the N.C. Association of Defense Attorneys’ Construction Practice Group. Rapp has successfully represented clients in state court, federal court and appellate matters.
Areas of focus: Civil litigation, commercial litigation and construction law
 
JOEL R. RHINE
Category: Legal Elite-Construction (Also named to Super Lawyers-Personal Injury General: Plaintiff and Super Lawyer’s N.C. Top 100)
Firm: Rhine Law Firm
Title: Partner
Education: University of Tampa (B.A.); Wake Forest University (J.D.)
Career highlights: Rhine has handled cases a variety of multi-million dollar lawsuits involving numerous issues, including catastrophic personal injury, wrongful death, construction, products liability, trucking and commercial vehicles, mass torts and class action for 27 years. Rhine has cases pending in North Carolina state and federal courts as well as federal courts throughout the U.S. Also named to Best Lawyers in America, Best Law Firms published in U.S. News & World Report, Martindale Hubbell AV rating and National Trial Lawyers “Top 100 Trial Lawyers”.
Areas of focus: Complex civil litigation, primarily on a contingency fee basis
 
LINDA B. SAYED
Category:
Legal Elite-Family Law (Also named to Super Lawyers-Family Law)
Firm: Block Crouch Keeter Behm & Sayed
Title: Partner
Education: UNCW (B.A. and M.Ed.); Campbell University (J.D.)
Career highlights: Sayed has been a partner at Block, Crouch, Keeter, Behm & Sayed since 2005. She is certified by the N.C. State Bar as family law specialist. She is past-president of the 5th Judicial Bar. Before becoming an attorney, she was a chemistry teacher and assistant principal with the New Hanover County Schools and taught chemistry at UNCW.
Areas of focus: Divorce, custody, child support, alimony, property division, separation agreements, premarital agreements and adoptions
 
JOHN R. SLOAN
Category:
Legal Elite-Tax and Estate Planning
Firm: Ward and Smith
Title: Attorney
Education: UNC Chapel Hill (A.B. and J.D.)
Career highlights: “I have appreciated thoroughly the opportunity to work with clients in our surrounding communities to develop and implement estate plans to care for their families. This work has involved a broad range of issues, including business succession, gifting strategies, estate tax mitigation, asset protection, trusts to protect spouse and children and other critical issues,” Sloan said.
Areas of focus: Board-certified specialist in estate planning and probate law
 
JAMES B. SNOW III
Category:
Legal Elite-Real Estate
Firm: Hogue Hill
Title: Managing partner
Education: University of Pennsylvania (B.A.); UNC Chapel Hill (J.D.)
Career highlights: Snow served as a member of the New Hanover County Bar Association’s executive committee 1990-1994 and in several roles with the N.C. Bar Association (Business Law and Real Property Law sections member; Business Law Section Council; Business Law Section Council membership chairman) and N.C. State Bar (5th Judicial District Secretary-Treasurer); 5th Judicial District Young Lawyers Division chairman). He has served as a member Legal Services of the Lower Cape Fear Inc. board of directors, including offices of treasurer and president.
Areas of focus: Business law, commercial law, formations of corporations and LLCs, purchases and sales of businesses, business transactions, mergers and acquisitions, employment agreements, independent contract services agreements, contracts, commercial and residential real estate, real estate development, real estate purchases and sales, refinancing, contracts, leasing, wills, living wills, health care powers of attorney, powers of attorney, estate administration and probate
 
COLIN J. TARRANT
Category:
Legal Elite-Young Guns
Firm: Smith Moore Leatherwood
Title: Associate Attorney
Education: NCSU (B.A.); New England School of Law (J.D.)
Career highlights: Tarrant has represented clients in complex civil litigation in state and federal court and assisted in obtaining permits and rezonings for solar industry clients throughout North Carolina. He is a member of the New Hanover County Board of Adjustment and Wilmington Downtown Inc.’s executive board. He was one of 16 North Carolina attorneys to participate in the NCBA’s Leadership Academy in 2013 and is a 2012 graduate of the Wilmington Chamber of Commerce’s Leadership Wilmington program.
Areas of focus: Tarrant is a member of the Smith Moore Leatherwood’s litigation practice group focusing on business and commercial litigation, as well as land use, zoning and lease enforcement.
 
CHRISTOPHER MICHAEL THERIAULT
Category:
Legal Elite-Young Guns (Also named to Super Lawyers/Rising Stars-Personal Injury General: Plaintiff)
Firm: Solana Theriault & Gross
Title: Managing Partner
Education: UNC School of Law (J.D.)
Career highlights: The National Academy Of Personal Injury Attorneys included Theriault on its 2015 list of Top 10 under 40 in North Carolina. He received the Martindale Hubbell AV Preeminent Peer Rating in 2014. He also was named among The National Trial Lawyers top 40 trial lawyers in North Carolina under the age of 40 from 2012 to 2014 and Super Lawyers-Rising Stars in 2010.
Areas of focus: Plaintiff’s civil litigation
 
BENTON L. TOUPS
Category: Legal Elite-Employment (Also named to Super Lawyers/Rising Stars-Employment & Labor)
Firm: Cranfill Sumner & Hartzog
Title: Partner
Education: Louisiana State University (B.A.); Louisiana State University (J.D.)
Career highlights: “Without a doubt
the most memorable day of my career was the day of my first trial. There was a whopping $1,000 at issue, but I prepared more for that day than I had ever prepared for anything in my life,” said Toups, who won that case.
Areas of focus: Employment, business disputes and mediation
 
ALLEN N. TRASK III
Category:
Legal Elite-Young Guns (Also named to Super Lawyers/Rising Stars-Business Litigation)
Firm: Ward and Smith
Title: Attorney
Education: East Carolina University (B.A.); Campbell University (J.D.)
Career highlights: “Getting to know our clients on a personal level is the most rewarding aspect of what we do. We are charged with being the best advocates we can be, which only is possible when we become invested in and a part of our clients’ lives and businesses,” Trask said.
Areas of focus: Business, commercial, and securities litigation; construction litigation; zoning and land use; real estate, community associations and landlord-tenant litigation; trust and estates litigation

THOMAS G. VARNUM
Category:
Legal Elite-Intellectual Property; Young Guns (Also named to Super Lawyers/Rising Stars-Intellectual Property)
Firm: Brooks Pierce McLendon Humphrey & Leonard
Title: Partner
Education: UNC Chapel Hill (B.A.); University of California, Davis (J.D.)
Career highlights: In his intellectual property practice, Thomas helps clients acquire, protect, enforce and exploit their trademarks, copyrights and other intellectual property assets. He also represents individuals and companies active in film projects and other types of entertainment media. At other times, Thomas provides general business counseling to all types of businesses in the region. He also serves as treasurer of the Cucalorus Film Foundation and a director of the Brigade Boys & Girls Club.
Areas of focus: Intellectual property, film/entertainment, civil litigation and general business counseling

EDWIN WEST III
Category:
Legal Elite-Criminal
Firm: Brooks Pierce McLendon Humphrey & Leonard
Title: Partner 
Education: Hampden-Sydney College (B.A.); Wake Forest University (J.D.)
Career highlights: West represents clients who risk exposure to legal, financial, reputational and public relations difficulties simultaneously. Whether resolving matters quietly or fighting in the courts, West works with his clients to find the best solutions, according to the firm. “Some of my best work has happened quietly behind the scenes, protecting the reputation of a business or individual by making the issue go away,” West said. “Many of my career highlights have never seen the light of day.”
Areas of focus: White-collar criminal defense, crisis management, complex business and corporate litigation, professional liability litigation

To see who was named to Thomson Reuters’ Super Lawyers list this year, click here.
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