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Legal Elite List Highlights Wilmington Lawyers

By Staff Reports, posted Apr 25, 2014
There were 688 lawyers who made Business North Carolina magazine’s annual Legal Elite list this year, only about 3 percent of attorneys in the state.

The group included 20 Wilmington- area lawyers.

To compile the annual list – now in its 13th year – Business North Carolina asks the more than 20,000 active N.C. State Bar members to vote for their recommendations of top lawyers in business-related specialties, from construction to intellectual property law.

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 2014 list:

Category: Legal Elite-Corporate
Firm: Liberty Healthcare
Title: Vice president and general counsel
Age: 48
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
Category: Legal Elite-Business
Firm: Ward and Smith
Title: Attorney
Age: 38
Education: James Madison University (B.A., magna cum laude); University of Richmond (J.D., cum laude)
Career highlights: “One of the best parts of my job is channeling my clients’ creative energy and ideas into focused business plans. Entrepreneurs, by nature, tend to be risk takers, and I enjoy assisting clients succeed while managing and avoiding potential risks and pitfalls. My clients’ drive and creativity inspires me and gives me energy,” Beaudoin said.
Areas of focus:Condominiums/community association; corporate, limited liability company and partnership; nonprofit formation and governance issues; and franchise
Category: Legal Elite-Construction (Also named to Super Lawyers)
Firm: Block, Crouch, Keeter, Behm & Sayed
Title: Partner
Age: 41
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
Category: Legal Elite-Bankruptcy
Firm: Butler & Butler
Title: Partner
Age: 45
Education: UNC Chapel Hill (A.B. and J.D., with honors)
Career highlights: Butler represents businesses and individuals with regard to bankruptcy reorganizations and non-bankruptcy alternatives and workouts. Butler also serves as a Chapter 7 Trustee for the U.S. Bankruptcy Court (EDNC). 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: Certified by the N.C. State Bar and the American Board of Certification as a specialist in both business and consumer bankruptcy law
Category: Legal Elite-Bankruptcy
Firm: Carter & Carter Attorneys
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 10 years. He was a bankruptcy trustee in Chapter 7 and Chapter 11 cases 1975-2000 and served on the panel of Chapter 7 bankruptcy trustees for 25 years for the U.S. Bankruptcy Court (EDNC) and as the trustee in Chapter 11 cases.
Areas of focus: Bankruptcy, business litigation, creditor and debtor bankruptcy rights, corporate matters and disputes and estate planning and administration
Category: Legal Elite-Business (Also named to Super Lawyers)
Firm: Murchison, Taylor & Gibson
Title: 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. He is a certified public accountant and member of the N.C. Association of Certified Public Accountants and the American Institute 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, acquisitions, trusts and estates, corporate law and
business and tax planning
ANGELA W. DINOTO, Legal Elite-Young Guns
Category: Legal Elite-Family (Also named to Super Lawyers-Rising Stars)
Firm: Cape Fear Family Law   
Title: Attorney
Age: 38
Education: UNCW (B.A., cum laude); 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
Category: Legal Elite-Construction (Also named to Super Lawyers)
Firm: Hamlet & Associates
Title: Managing Partner
Age: 48
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
Category: Legal Elite-Antitrust (Also named to Super Lawyers)
Firm: McGuireWoods
Title: Partner
Age: 43
Education: UNC Chapel Hill (B.A.); Wake Forest University (J.D.)
Career highlights: Kitchin concentrates his practice on business litigation and creditors’ rights matters. He represents plaintiffs and defendants in antitrust, business tort 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, financial services and bankruptcy
Category: Legal Elite-Real Estate (Also named to Super Lawyers)
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, 2009-2014; North Carolina Super Lawyers 2009-2014 and Best of the Best, Top 100 in 2014 North Carolina Super Lawyers. He also was included in The Best Lawyers in America, 20th edition. Lee also serves as a N.C. DOT board member and N.C. Ports Authority board of directors vice chairman.
Category: Legal Elite-Real Estate
Firm: Smith Moore Leatherwood
Title: Partner-in-charge, Wilmington office
Age: 48
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
Category: Legal Elite-Litigation (Also named to Super Lawyers)
Firm: Rhine Martin Law Firm
Title: Partner
Age: 46
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. Her litigation practice spans from business disputes to product defects and consumer class actions. She has significant experience in pharmaceutical drug and medical device litigation.
Area of focus: Complex civil litigation
Category: Legal Elite-Litigation (Also named to Super Lawyers)
Firm: Cranfill, Sumner & Hartzog
Title: Managing partner, Wilmington office
Age: 55
Education: Wake Forest University (B.A.); Campbell University (J.D.)
Career highlights: Martin has successfully tried numerous medical malpractice and personal injury cases throughout North Carolina. Many of his cases involve brain injury, birth trauma, paraplegia and wrongful death. Martin also has experience with large construction litigation, premises liability and hospital/workplace security. He has appeared before the U. S. Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit, the U. S. Supreme Court and the N.C. Court of Appeals and Supreme Court.
Areas of focus: Medical malpractice, personal injury and construction
Category: Legal Elite-Litigation
Firm: Murchison, Taylor & Gibson                                                                 
Title: Managing partner
Age: 45
Education: Wake Forest University (B.A. and J.D.)
Career highlights: McVey was nominated to Business North Carolina’s Legal Elite in 2013 and 2014. He has been certified as a Superior Court mediator since 2000 and is a member of the N.C. Bar Association Labor & Employment Law Section Council, 2009-present. He is a recipient of the 2013 Addison Hewlett Jr. Award for Pro Bono Service. Representative cases include successfully defending an Italian entity in federal trial and appellate litigation alleging breach of an exclusive franchising agreement and enforcing non-competition agreements on behalf of numerous businesses and medical practices.
Areas of focus: Litigation, mediation, employment and homeowners’ association representation
Category: Legal Elite-Construction and Litigation (Also named to Super Lawyers)
Firm: Rhine Martin Law Firm
Title: Partner
Age: 51
Education: University of Tampa (B.A., cum laude); Wake Forest University (J.D.)
Career highlights: Rhine has handled cases involving construction issues, trucking accidents, products liability and wrongful death for over 25 years. He has tried numerous cases successfully to verdict as well as obtained recoveries through arbitration and settlement. He is also involved in numerous class actions and mass torts throughout the country.
Area of focus: Complex civil litigation
Category: Legal Elite-Family (Also named to Super Lawyers)
Firm: Block, Crouch, Keeter, Behm & Sayed
Title: Partner
Age: 56
Education: UNCW (B.A. and M.Ed.); Campbell University (J.D.)
Career highlights: Sayed has previously been an associate attorney with Block, Crouch, Keeter & Huffman as well as at Ward and Smith. She is president of the 5th Judicial Bar.
Area of focus: N.C. certified family law specialist

Category: Legal Elite-Young Guns
Firm: Solana, Theriault & Gross
Title: Managing Partner
Age: 32
Education: UNC Chapel Hill (J.D.)
Career highlights: Theriault 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 in 2012 and 2013 and Super Lawyers-Rising Stars in 2010.
Area of focus: Plaintiff’s civil litigation
Category: Legal Elite-Employment
Firm: Cranfill Sumner & Hartzog
Title: Partner
Age: 39
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

Category: Legal Elite–Young Guns (Also named to Super Lawyers-Rising Stars)
Firm: Ward and Smith
Title: Attorney
Age: 31
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 and commercial litigation; construction litigation; real estate, community associations and landlord-tenant litigation; trust and estates litigation

To see a list of area attorneys named to the Super Lawyers list, click here. 
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