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Achievers & Accolades

Area Attorneys Land On 2019 Legal Elite List

By Staff Reports, posted Apr 5, 2019
There were 729 lawyers who made Business North Carolina magazine’s Legal Elite list this year. Still that figure represents less than 3 percent of all attorneys in the state, according to the publication.
 
The group included Wilmington-area lawyers.
 
To compile the annual list Business North Carolina asks the 23,000 active N.C. State Bar members to vote for their recommendations of top lawyers in various areas.
 
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 2019 list:
 

JAMES ALLARD JR.

CATEGORY: Legal Elite-Criminal
FIRM: Hewlett, Collins & Allard LLP
EDUCATION: UNCW (B.A.); Campbell University (J.D.)
CAREER HIGHLIGHTS: Allard is AV Rated by Martindale-Hubbell and been named to the Top 100 Trial Lawyers, National Trial Lawyers. He is a member of the Fifth Judicial District (Member, Grievance Committee, 1990-92) and N.C. State Bar; N.C. Academy of Trial Lawyers; and The Association of Trial Lawyers of America.
 

DAVID ANDERSON

CATEGORY: Legal Elite- Tax/Estate Planning
FIRM: David E. Anderson PLLC
TITLE: Attorney EDUCATION: Mount Olive College (B.S.); N.C. Central University (J.D.)
CAREER HIGHLIGHTS: For the past six years, Anderson has focused his practice on estate planning and administration. He is admitted to practice in North Carolina, the Eastern Federal District Court and the U.S. Tax Court. Anderson is a member of the American Bar Association and N.C. Bar Association. He is currently serving as president of the New Hanover County Estate Planning Council. Anderson also has almost a decade of law enforcement experience and military service prior to practicing law. AREAS OF FOCUS: Estate planning, estate administration and business planning
 

YOEL BALTER

CATEGORY: Legal Elite-Corporate Counsel
FIRM: Liberty Healthcare Management
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 BEHM

CATEGORY: Legal Elite-Construction and 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, trust and estates, real estate, products liability and personal injury matters in federal and state courts
 

ALGERNON BUTLER JR.

CATEGORY: Legal Elite-Bankruptcy
FIRM: (retired)
 

ALGERNON BUTLER III

CATEGORY: Legal Elite-Bankruptcy (Also named to Super Lawyers- Bankruptcy: Business)
FIRM: Butler & Butler LLP
TITLE: Managing Partner
EDUCATION: UNC-Chapel Hill (B.A. and J.D.)
CAREER HIGHLIGHTS: Butler represents businesses and individuals, both debtors and creditors, in connection with financial workouts, debt restructurings and bankruptcy reorganizations and liquidations. 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 on 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, corporate reorganizations under Chapter 11, personal bankruptcies under Chapters 7 and 13, creditor representation, bankruptcy and civil litigation defense. He is certified by N.C. State Bar Board of Legal Specialization and American Board of Certification as a specialist in both business bankruptcy and consumer bankruptcy law.
 

JAMES OLIVER CARTER

CATEGORY: Legal Elite- Bankruptcy
FIRM: Carter & Carter TITLE: Partner
EDUCATION: Wake Forest University (B.A. and J.D.)
CAREER HIGHLIGHTS: Practicing in Wilmington for the past 44 years, Carter has been listed in Business North Carolina magazine’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 and estate planning and administration
 

ALEX DALE

CATEGORY: Legal Elite- Appellate
FIRM: Ward and Smith P.A.
TITLE: Attorney
EDUCATION: UNC-Chapel Hill (B.A. and M.A.); Duke University School of Law (J.D.)
CAREER HIGHLIGHTS: Dale’s practice experience encompasses a broad range of business law matters, including experience representing individuals, startups, small businesses and multi-national companies in a variety of fields. His experience includes intellectual property transactional matters, corporate governance, business organization and succession planning, contract negotiation and complex business litigation. He leads the Appellate Practice Group within the firm and is frequently asked by his colleagues within the law firm and outside of the law firm to assist clients in appellate matters. He also leads the firm’s Business Litigation Practice Group, and he has taken numerous cases to final decision in the areas of breach of contract litigation, trusts and estates litigation, securities and investment advisor litigation, corporate litigation and complex business litigation.
AREAS OF FOCUS: Appellate; business and commercial litigation; copyright and trademark law; intellectual property litigation; media law; homeowners association representation; securities litigation
 

FRED DAVENPORT JR.

CATEGORY: Legal Elite- Business FIRM: Murchison, Taylor & Gibson PLLC
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 FIRM: Murchison, Taylor & Gibson PLLC
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 2014-16 and again 2018-19. He is a certified public accountant (N.C. silver medalist, 1986 Uniform CPA Exam) 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.
AREAS OF FOCUS: Mergers and acquisitions, trusts and estates, corporate law and business and tax planning
 

SAMUEL FRANCK

CATEGORY: Legal Elite-Real Estate
FIRM: Ward and Smith P.A.
TITLE: Attorney
EDUCATION: Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (B.S.); College of William & Mary Law School (J.D.)
CAREER HIGHLIGHTS: Franck leads Ward and Smith’s Real Estate practice and is certified by the N.C. State Bar as a board-certified specialist in Real Property Law: Commercial Transactions. His practice experience includes all aspects of commercial real estate and community association matters. He regularly assists commercial and residential developers in the acquisition, subdivision, development, zoning and sale of real property, including the formation of complex, mixed-use planned communities, commercial and residential condominiums and multi-tenant commercial projects.
AREAS OF FOCUS: Commercial real estate acquisition, financing, development, subdivision and sale; development of condominiums and planned communities, and mixed-use projects; condominium/ community association law; zoning, subdivisions and land use planning law; Interstate Land Sales Act compliance and issues
 

VANESSA GONZALEZ

CATEGORY: Legal Elite-Immigration
FIRM: The Law Office of Vanessa A. Gonzalez PLLC
TITLE: Attorney
EDUCATION: UNC-Pembroke; UNC-Chapel Hill (J.D.)
CAREER HIGHLIGHTS: Gonzalez is an experienced immigration attorney dedicated to serving immigrant families and furthering immigrants’ rights. She has represented hundreds of individuals in petitions for lawful immigration status for themselves, their family members and before the Executive Office of Immigration Review (Immigration Court). Gonzalez is a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association and Coastal Women Attorneys.
AREAS OF FOCUS: Immigration law
 

NANCY GUYTON

CATEGORY: Legal Elite- Real Estate
FIRM: Kincaid and Associates PLLC 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 Co. She is a member of the N.C. Bar Association and served on its Real Property Council. She is a member of the N.C. Association of Women Attorneys, and is a member and has served on the boards of Coastal Women Attorneys and Cape Fear CREW. She is a commissioner on the Wilmington Housing Authority.
AREAS OF FOCUS: Commercial real estate transactions, business and corporate law and wills and estates
 

H. MARK HAMLET

CATEGORY: Legal Elite-Construction and Litigation (Also named to Super Lawyers- Construction Litigation) FIRM: Hamlet & Associates PLLC
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, health care and mediation
 

MARK HARTMAN

CATEGORY: Legal Elite-Real Estate (Also named to Super Lawyers-Banking)
FIRM: Davis Hartman Wright PLLC
TITLE: Attorney, Founding Partner
EDUCATION: N.C. State University (B.S.); Wake Forest University School of Law (J.D.)
CAREER HIGHLIGHTS: Over the past 20 years, Hartman has distinguished himself as one of the leading banking/finance and commercial real estate lawyers in North Carolina, representing financial institutions and other parties to complex commercial real estate transactions throughout the Southeast. He also is listed Best Lawyers in America for real estate law and has earned the Martindale- Hubbell AV Preeminent Peer Review Rating for both ability and ethics and the Martindale- Hubbell AV Preeminent Client Review Rating for both ability and ethics.
AREAS OF FOCUS: Banking and finance; commercial real estate
 

ELIZABETH SIMS HEDRICK

CATEGORY: Legal Elite-Young Guns
FIRM: Fox Rothschild LLP
TITLE: Partner
EDUCATION: UNC-Chapel Hill (B.A. and J.D.)
CAREER HIGHLIGHTS: Hedrick is a litigator who focuses primarily on real estate litigation and health care claims. She represents clients in a variety of disputes including business disputes, malpractice claims, landlord-tenant litigation and administrative law matters. She focuses her real estate litigation practice primarily on landlord and tenant disputes involving lease enforcement and collection of rents. She represents both commercial and residential landlords and tenants, and has successfully litigated cases through summary judgment, trial and appeal, including post judgment collection and enforcement.
 

JESSICA SOLES HUMPHRIES

CATEGORY: Legal Elite/ Construction-Young Guns, (Also named to Super Lawyers-Rising Stars: Civil Litigation/Defense)
FIRM: Hamlet & Associates PLLC
TITLE: Associate Attorney
EDUCATION: UNC-Chapel Hill; Campbell University (J.D.)
CAREER HIGHLIGHTS: Humphries has over six years of experience representing general contractors, developers and subcontractors against construction defect and personal injury claims in North and South Carolina. She has also represented municipalities and governmental entities in condemnation and inverse condemnation matters. She is the current president of the Coastal Women Attorneys, a chapter of the N.C. Association of Women Attorneys Inc., and is a team leader for the Cape Fear Habitat for Humanity’s Women Build Project.
AREAS OF FOCUS: Construction law, civil litigation, land use and real estate development, eminent domain
 

PAIGE INMAN

CATEGORY: Legal Elite- Young Guns
FIRM: Ward and Smith P.A.
TITLE: Attorney
EDUCATION: UNC-Chapel Hill (B.A.); Campbell University (J.D.)
CAREER HIGHLIGHTS: Inman practices family law and estate litigation from the firm’s Wilmington office. She helps families and individuals navigate complicated family law legal processes during times of family upheaval and transition, both in the context of divorce and death. Her family law practice is multifaceted, encompassing such areas as divorce, mediation, equitable distribution, preseparation planning, separation agreements, alimony and spousal support, children’s rights, domestic violence and neglect, paternity and prenuptial agreements. She also litigates will disputes and family estate administration and settlement issues.
AREAS OF FOCUS: Family law, divorce, custody, child support, alimony, property division, separation agreements, premarital agreements
 

EMILY JONES

CATEGORY: Legal Elite- Criminal (Also named to Super Lawyers-Rising Stars: Criminal Defense)
FIRM: Burney & Jones
TITLE: Partner
EDUCATION: N.C. State (B.S.); Charlotte School of Law (J.D.)
CAREER HIGHLIGHTS: Jones notes a highlight as “being able to advocate for indigent clients in both New Hanover and Pender counties to ensure that each person, regardless of income, race or background has quality representation” as well as “participating in Teen Court, where I am able to teach local high school students about the practical applications of trying cases and presenting evidence.”
AREAS OF FOCUS: Criminal defense, family law, juvenile law (delinquency/DSS), traffic, wills
 

JILL PETERS KAESS

CATEGORY: Legal Elite-Tax/Estate Planning (Also named to Super Lawyers-Estate Planning & Probate)
FIRM: Fox Rothschild LLP TITLE: Partner EDUCATION: UNCW (B.S.); Wake Forest University (J.D.)
CAREER HIGHLIGHTS: Peters Kaess is a member of the Taxation & Wealth Management team in the firm’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. She also assists fiduciaries, such as executors and trustees, on matters involving estate and trust administration. Peters Kaess is a Certified Public Accountant and is a board-certified specialist in estate planning and probate law by the N.C. State Bar.
AREAS OF FOCUS: Taxation and wealth planning; trust and estate law and administration
 

JEFFREY KEETER

CATEGORY: Legal Elite- Real Estate (Also named to Super Lawyers-Real Estate)
FIRM: Block, Crouch, Keeter, Behm & Sayed
TITLE: Partner
EDUCATION: Campbell University (B.S. and J.D.)
CAREER HIGHLIGHTS: Keeter’s entire career has been in Wilmington. He previously practiced with Rountree & Seagle LLP, and Carr, Swails, Huffine, Crouch & Keeter LLP. He has been a partner at Block, Crouch, Keeter, Behm & Sayed LLP since the law firm’s inception in 1996. He has served as a member of the New Hanover County Bar Association, N.C. Bar Association Law Practice Management Section Council and N.C. Bar Association member (Real Estate, Business and Estate Planning and Fidciary Law Sections).
AREAS OF FOCUS: Business law, real estate law, estate planning and administration
 

HAL KITCHIN

CATEGORY: Legal Elite- Litigation and Antitrust (a statewide category winner in Antitrust) (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 and land-use litigation and regulation. He represents plaintiffs and defendants in real estate disputes, eminent domain proceedings and business, antitrust and breach of contract cases. He represents landowners and developers in land use and zoning/permitting proceedings. He also represents creditors in creditors’ rights and bankruptcy cases. Along with Legal Elite and Super Lawyers, Kitchin also has been included on The Best Lawyers in America list by since 2009, including for 2019, in the area of commercial litigation.
AREAS OF FOCUS:  Business and commercial litigation; eminent domain and real estate litigation; land use and zoning permitting and disputes; antitrust, business tort and breach of contract cases; creditors’ rights and bankruptcy cases; and lender liability lawsuits
 

REBECCA KNUDSON

CATEGORY:  Legal Elite-Appellate and Construction (Also named to Super Lawyers- Construction Litigation )
FIRM:  Cranfill Sumner & Hartzog LLP
TITLE:  Attorney
EDUCATION:  UNCW (B.A.); Northeastern University (J.D.)
CAREER HIGHLIGHTS:  Knudson focuses her practice on construction, business, community association and appellate law. Her litigation experience includes representation of businesses, construction professionals and corporate officers in several complex lawsuits, including cases before the N.C. Business Court and N.C. Court of Appeals. She previously served on the council for the Construction Law Section of the N.C. Bar Association.
AREAS OF FOCUS:  Construction, litigation, business, community association law
 

PAULA KOHUT

CATEGORY:  Legal Elite- Tax/Estate Planning (Also named to Super Lawyers-Estate Planning & Probate )
FIRM:  Kohut & Adams PA
TITLE:  Shareholder
EDUCATION:  University of California, Irvine (B.A.); Wake Forest University (J.D.)
CAREER HIGHLIGHTS:  “I have the privilege to represent many individuals and business clients,” Kohut said. “Developing estate plans, assisting with the administration of the estates of loved ones, forming business entities, assisting business owners and volunteering with bar organizations each provide opportunities to make a difference.”
AREAS OF FOCUS:  Trust and estate planning and administration; business law
 

MICHAEL V. LEE

CATEGORY:  Legal Elite-Real Estate (Also named to Super Lawyers-Real Estate)
FIRM:  Lee Law Firm PLLC
EDUCATION:  UNC-Chapel Hill (B.A.); Wake Forest University (J.D.)
CAREER HIGHLIGHTS:  Lee started the Lee Law Firm in 2012. He has earned the Martindale- Hubbell AV Preeminent Peer Review Rating; Business North Carolina’s Legal Elite 2007, 2009-19; North Carolina Super Lawyers 2009-19; 2014 Best of the Best, Top 100 North Carolina Super Lawyers. He was also selected by his peers for inclusion in the 25th edition of The Best Lawyers in America and U.S. News’ Best Law Firm list. Lee served in the state Senate 2014-18 as well as a N.C. Department of Transportation board member and N.C. State Ports Authority board chairman.
 

JAMES MCGEE JR.

CATEGORY:  Legal Elite-Criminal (Also named to Super Lawyers-Criminal Defense: DUI/DWI )
FIRM:  The McGee Law Firm
TITLE:  Owner
EDUCATION:  UNCW (B.S.); Campbell University (J.D.)
AREAS OF FOCUS:  DWI defense, criminal defense and personal injury
 

ANDREW MCVEY

CATEGORY:  Legal Elite- Litigation (Also named to Super Lawyers- Employment & Labor )
FIRM:  Murchison, Taylor & Gibson TITLE:  Member
EDUCATION:  Wake Forest University (B.A. and J.D.)
CAREER HIGHLIGHTS:  McVey is a certified Superior Court mediator. A member of the firm’s litigation section, he regularly represents large companies, small businesses, medical practices, financial institutions, developers, homeowners associations and individuals in trial and appellate matters and alternative dispute resolution with emphasis on complex commercial litigation and employment law. He has served on the Civil Rules Committee for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina and is an Adison Hewlett Pro Bono Award recipient.
AREAS OF FOCUS:  Civil litigation, employment, business law and homeowners association representation
 

ASHLEY GOINS MICHAEL

CATEGORY:  Legal Elite- Family
FIRM:  Craige & Fox PLLC
TITLE:  Board-Certified Family Law Specialist
EDUCATION:  UNC Asheville (B.S.); Appalachian School of Law (J.D.)
CAREER HIGHLIGHTS:  Michael is a family law specialist, mediator, certified parenting coordinator and trained collaborative divorce attorney. She teaches continuing education throughout the state on adoption law and enjoys assisting clients in the areas of assisted reproductive technology. She is a founding member of Coastal Collaborative Colleagues, committed to “doing divorce differently” and on the board of directors for NC-CAN, N.C. Collaborative Attorney Network, a trade association whose mission is to educate residents about collaborative divorce as a form of alternative dispute resolution.
AREAS OF FOCUS:  Family law, adoption, collaborative divorce
 

PATRICK MINCEY

CATEGORY:  Legal Elite-Criminal (Also named to Super Lawyers-Rising Stars: Criminal Defense/White Collar )
FIRM:  Cranfill Sumner & Hartzog LLP
TITLE:  Attorney
EDUCATION:  Davidson College (B.A.); Mercer University (J.D.)
CAREER HIGHLIGHTS:  Mincey focuses his practice on white collar criminal defense. He represents companies, health care institutions, boards of directors, executives, public officials and other professionals in government investigations, corporate crises and sensitive matters. He defends clients in prosecutions of federal and state governments, clients who are frequently entangled in simultaneous civil, criminal and regulatory investigations. This includes actions by the Department of Justice, state attorneys general offices, district attorneys offices and other regulatory agencies.
AREAS OF FOCUS:  White-collar criminal defense and government investigations
 

MICHAEL MURCHISON

CATEGORY:  Legal Elite- Employment
FIRM:  Murchison Taylor & Gibson PLLC
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
 

WILLIAM ODEN III

CATEGORY:  Legal Elite- Employment
FIRM:  Ward and Smith P.A.
TITLE:  Attorney
EDUCATION:  UNC-Chapel Hill (B.A.); Campbell University (J.D. and M.B.A.)
CAREER HIGHLIGHTS:  Oden’s practice focuses on employment, occupational safety and health and workers’ compensation. A former president of the New Hanover County Bar Association and Lower Cape Fear HR Association, he currently serves on NCSHRM’s Leadership Council. Oden also was appointed to serve as a founding member of the Campbell Law Alumni Association’s inaugural board of directors. He is certified as a manager of environmental safety and health programs.
AREAS OF FOCUS:  Employment law, employment litigation, occupational safety and health and workers’ compensation
 

NICOLE PATINO

CATEGORY:  Legal Elite-Employmnet
FIRM:  Law Offices of Fred T. Hamlet
TITLE:  Associate Attorney
EDUCATION:  Virginia Tech; Elon University (J.D.)
CAREER HIGHLIGHTS:  Patino graduated from Elon University School of Law where she was a staff member of the Elon Law Review in 2013-14 and became Notes and Comments Editor during the 2014-15 school year. She was a law clerk with the Law Offices of Fred T. Hamlet during her third year in law school. Before attending law school, she worked as a substance abuse counselor where she gained knowledge of HIPAA, federal privacy laws and medical records. She also gained experience working with EAPs, human resources personnel, employers and employees.
 

JOEL RHINE

CATEGORY:  Legal Elite- Construction (Also named to Super Lawyers Top 100 list and Super Lawyers- Personal Injury General: Plaintiff )
FIRM:  Rhine Law Firm
TITLE:  Partner
EDUCATION:  University of Tampa (B.A.); Wake Forest University (J.D.)
CAREER HIGHLIGHTS:  Rhine has handled 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 nearly three decades. Rhine has cases pending in North Carolina state and federal courts as well as federal courts throughout the U.S. He was also named to The Best Lawyers in America, Best Law Firms published in U.S. News, Martindale-Hubbell AV rating and National Trial Lawyers “Top 100 Trial Lawyers.”
AREA OF FOCUS:  Complex civil litigation
 

LISA SALINES-MONDELLO

CATEGORY:  Legal Elite-Tax/Estate Planning
FIRM:  Salines-Mondello Law Firm PC
TITLE:  Principal Attorney
EDUCATION:  (bachelor’s, J.D.) Boston University School of Law (LL.M. in Taxation)
CAREER HIGHLIGHTS:  Licensed to practice in both North Carolina and Massachusetts, Salines-Mondello is certified as an elder law attorney by the National Elder Law Foundation and is a N.C. Bar-certified specialist in elder law. Salines-Mondello is a member of the North Carolina and Massachusetts bars, the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, the N.C. chapter of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (including in officer roles) as well as the N.C. Board of Legal Specialization, the Alzheimer’s North Carolina Casino for a Cause Fundraising Committee and the New Hanover County Estate Planning Council.
AREAS OF FOCUS:  Elder law
 

LINDA SAYED

CATEGORY:  Legal Elite-Family (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 a family law specialist. She is former president of the 5th Judicial Bar and serves on the executive board for Coastal Women Attorneys.
AREAS OF FOCUS: Divorce, custody, child support, alimony, property division, separation agreements, premarital agreements and adoptions
 

NICOLE SLAUGHTER

CATEGORY: Legal Elite-Construction
FIRM: Hamlet & Associates PLLC
TITLE: Attorney
EDUCATION: University of Memphis (B.B.A.); University of Tennessee (J.D.)
CAREER HIGHLIGHTS: Slaughter is licensed in North Carolina, Tennessee and Georgia. She serves on the N.C. Bar Association’s Construction Section Council, is a founding member and serves on the board of the N.C. Civil Collaborative Law Association, and is a member of the N.C. Association of Defense Attorneys and the N.C. Association of Women Attorneys, Coastal Women Attorneys chapter. Slaughter has served as an author and as a speaker at continuing legal education programs concerning construction law.
AREAS OF FOCUS: Commercial commercial litigation, construction law, product liability, insurance defense and other complex litigation
 

JOHN SLOAN

CATEGORY: Legal Elite- Tax/Estate Planning
FIRM: Ward and Smith P.A.
TITLE: Attorney
EDUCATION: UNC-Chapel Hill (B.A. and J.D.)
CAREER HIGHLIGHTS: Sloan leads Ward and Smith’s Trusts and Estates practice. He is certified by the N.C. State Bar as a board-certified specialist in estate planning and probate law. Sloan’s practice experience encompasses estate planning, estate administration, estate and gift tax planning and related services primarily, though not exclusively, to high-net worth individuals and families. His practice also involves business succession planning for closely-held business owners, asset protection and estate planning with IRAs and retirement accounts.
AREAS OF FOCUS: Estate and gift taxation; estate planning and estate administration; trust planning; business succession planning; asset protection planning; estate planning with IRAs and retirement accounts
 

HELEN TAROKIC

CATEGORY: Legal Elite-Immigration (Also named to Super Lawyers-Immigration)
FIRM: Helen Tarokic Law PLLC
TITLE: Attorney, Manager EDUCATION: Lake Forest College (B.A.); Wake Forest University (J.D.)
CAREER HIGHLIGHTS: Tarokic is one of four North Carolina board certified immigration law specialists in Wilmington. She was awarded the AILA National Sam Williamson mentorship award in San Francisco in June, and in November she co-authored the book “Ignite Your Practice with the T Visa,” which became a best-seller on Amazon for its category. She handles all types of immigration cases, ranging from investor and business cases to humanitarian and human trafficking cases. She is an active member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.
AREAS OF FOCUS: North Carolina boardcertified immigration law specialist; fluent in Spanish, English and Croatian
 

MIRIAM THOMPSON

CATEGORY: Legal Elite-Criminal
FIRM: Miriam M. Thompson PLLC
EDUCATION: UNC-Chapel Hill (B.A. and J.D.)
CAREER HIGHLIGHTS: Thompson has practiced criminal defense and personal injury law in Southeastern North Carolina since 1995. She has settled and tried hundreds of cases, ranging from serious felony offenses and DWI cases to personal injury and wrongful death cases. Thompson has been a member of the N.C. Advocates for Justice, the N.C. Bar Association and the New Hanover County Bar Association. She has also served on the board of the Coastal Womens Attorneys group.
AREAS OF FOCUS: Criminal defense and personal injury
 

BENTON TOUPS

CATEGORY: Legal Elite- Employment
FIRM: Cranfill, Sumner & Hartzog LLP
TITLE: Partner
EDUCATION: Louisiana State University (B.A. and J.D.)
CAREER HIGHLIGHTS: “I remember every sincere ‘thank you’ I get from a client. Those are the highlights.”
AREAS OF FOCUS: Toups handles all aspects of employment law, from drafting and negotiating employment contracts to litigating cases before various government agencies and state and federal courts. He is also a certified mediator and in that capacity is often selected by his peers to assist them in resolving disputes.
 

THOMAS VARNUM

CATEGORY: Legal Elite-Intellectual Property (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, Varnum 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, Varnum provides general business counseling to all types of businesses in the region. He currently serves as chair 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 (Also named to Super Lawyers-Criminal Defense)
FIRM: Brooks Pierce McLendon Humphrey & Leonard
TITLE: Partner
EDUCATION: Hampden-Sydney College (B.A.); Wake Forest University (J.D.)
CAREER HIGHLIGHTS: 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
 

JEREMY WILSON

CATEGORY: Legal Elite-Young Guns (Also named to Super Lawyers-Rising Stars: Personal Injury General/ Plaintiff)
FIRM: Ward and Smith P.A.
TITLE: Attorney
EDUCATION: UNC (B.A. and J.D.); Duke University (M.P.P.)
CAREER HIGHLIGHTS: Wilson leads Ward and Smith’s Personal Injury and Wrongful Death practice. He has extensive experience litigating claims for wrongful death, serious personal injury and a broad range of civil litigation before state and federal courts, including cases involving vehicle accidents, professional malpractice, premises liability, products liability and class actions, among other areas.  
AREAS OF FOCUS: Civil litigation; personal injury; medical malpractice; premises liability; insurance coverage and litigation; business, commercial and contract litigation
Editor's note: In the April 5 print edition, Jeremy Wilson's bio should have appeared on both the Legal Elite and Super Lawyers-Rising Stars list.

MELISSA WRIGHT

CATEGORY: Legal Elite-Family
FIRM: Block, Crouch, Keeter, Behm & Sayed
TITLE: Attorney at Law
EDUCATION: Pfeiffer University (B.A.); Samford University (J.D.)
CAREER HIGHLIGHTS: Wright has practiced family law exclusively since 2003. She helps families navigate separation and divorce as a family law litigator, a Certified Family Financial Mediator and is frequently appointed as a parenting coordinator to assist parents with complying with court orders and to communicate and cooperate more effectively about their children. She has been Of Counsel with Block, Crouch, Keeter, Behm & Sayed, LLP since 2015.
AREAS OF FOCUS: Family law, family law mediation, parenting coordination, collaborative divorce
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