Legal Elite: after weighing their opinions, lawyers elected these as the state's best in 12 business-related specialties.

 
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Each year, BUSINESS NORTH CAROLINA sets out to answer a simple question: Who are the best business lawyers in the state? No one knows the answer to that better than Tar Heel lawyers themselves. So the magazine mailed 17,336 ballots last spring--one to every lawyer licensed by the State Bar and living in North Carolina. The ballots asked only one question: "Of the North Carolina lawyers whose work you have observed firsthand, whom would you rate among the current best?" Ballots included spaces for names in 12 fields closely related to business. Voters could not pick themselves and could only select members of their own firms if they also voted for out-of-firm lawyers in the same categories. Past winners, inducted into the Legal Elite Hall of Fame, are ineligible to repeat. More than 1,700 lawyers received votes, with 495 getting enough to be named to this year's Legal Elite. How elite is it? Less than 3% of the state's lawyers made it. Winners are listed on the pages that follow, along with profiles of those getting the most votes in each category.

Hall of Fame

Our 2003 Legal Elite, the second edition, had eight repeat winners in the 10 categories. So we imposed a one-term limit and established the Legal Elite Hall of Fame. In 2004, we added a category and split one into two. Following are the 35 members of the Hall of Fame and their firms when they were chosen.

ANTITRUST Matthew W. Sawchak, Ellis & Winters LLP, Cary (2002, 2003); Rodrick J. Enns, Enns & Archer LLP, Winston-Salem (2004); Larry B. Sitton, Smith Moore LLP, Greensboro (2005)

BANKRUPTCY J. Michael Booe, Kennedy Covington Lobdell & Hickman LLP, Charlotte (2002, 2003); Gregory B. Crampton, Nicholls & Crampton PA, Raleigh (2004); Richard M. Hutson II, Hutson Hughes & Powell PA, Durham (2005)

BUSINESS LAW Russell M. Robinson II, Robinson, Bradshaw & Hinson PA, Charlotte (2002, 2003); Doris R. Bray, Schell Bray Aycock Abel & Livingston PLLC, Greensboro (2004); J. Norfleet Pruden III, Kennedy Covington Lobdell & Hickman LLP, Charlotte (2005)

CONSTRUCTION James A. Roberts III, Lewis & Roberts PLLC, Raleigh (2004); Jeffrey J. Davis, Moore & Van Allen PLLC, Charlotte (2005)

CONSTRUCTION/REAL ESTATE Charles L. Fulton, Manning, Fulton & Skinner PA, Raleigh (2002, 2003)

CORPORATE COUNSEL Russell M. Robinson II, Robinson, Bradshaw & Hinson PA, Charlotte (2002); James E. Creekman, First Citizens Bank & Trust Co., Raleigh (2003); David L. Ward Jr., Ward and Smith PA, New Bern (2004); Douglas R. Edwards, Wachovia Corp., Charlotte (2005)

CRIMINAL DEFENSE Wade M. Smith, Tharrington Smith LLP, Raleigh (2004); James F. Wyatt III, Wyatt & Blake LLP, Charlotte (2005)

EMPLOYMENT Philip M. Van Hoy, Van Hoy, Reutlinger & Adams, Charlotte (2002); George J. Oliver, Smith Moore LLP, Raleigh (2003); Penni Pearson Bradshaw, Kilpatrick Stockton LLP, Winston-Salem (2004); Jonathan R. Harkavy, Patterson Harkavy LLP, Greensboro (2005)

ENVIRONMENTAL Charles D. Case, Hunton & Williams, Raleigh (2002, 2003); H. Glenn Dunn, Poyner & Spruill LLP, Raleigh (2004); George W. House, Brooks, Pierce, McLendon, Humphrey & Leonard LLP, Greensboro (2005)

LITIGATION James T. Williams Jr., Brooks, Pierce, McLendon, Humphrey & Leonard LLP, Greensboro (2002, 2003); Clarence W. Walker, Kennedy Covington Lobdell & Hickman LLP, Charlotte (2004); Gary S. Parsons, Bailey & Dixon LLP, Raleigh (2005)

PATENTS AND INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY Mitchell S. Bigel, Myers Bigel Sibley & Sajovec PA, Raleigh (2002, 2003); Kenneth D. Sibley, Myers Bigel Sibley & Sajovec PA, Raleigh (2004); Wesley Thaddeus Adams III, Adams Evans PA, Charlotte (2005)

REAL ESTATE Alfred Adams, Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice PLLC, Winston-Salem (2004); Barry D. Mann, Manning, Fulton & Skinner PA, Raleigh (2005)

TAXES AND ESTATE PLANNING Robert C. Vaughn Jr., Vaughn Perkinson Ehlinger Moxley & Stogner, Winston-Salem (2002, 2003); W. Curtis Elliott Jr., Culp Elliott & Carpenter PLLC, Charlotte (2004); Ray S. Farris, Johnston, Allison & Hord PA, Charlotte (2005).

ANTITRUST

Everett J. Bowman

Robinson, Bradshaw & Hinson PA

Charlotte

Michael R. Abel

Schell Bray Aycock Abel & Livingston PLLC

Greensboro

Noel Allen

Allen & Pinnix PA

Raleigh

Catharine Biggs Arrowood

Parker Poe Adams & Bernstein LLP

Raleigh

Charles Gordon Brown

Brown & Bunch PLLC

Chapel Hill

Dan Clodfelter

Moore & Van Allen PLLC

Charlotte

W. Andrew Copenhaver

Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice PLLC

Winston-Salem

J. Donald Cowan Jr.

Smith Moore LLP

Greensboro

Richard W. Ellis

Ellis & Winters LLP

Raleigh

James R. Fox

Bell, Davis & Pitt PA

Winston-Salem

John F. Graybeal

Parker Poe Adams & Bernstein LLP

Raleigh

Denise M. Gunter

Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP

Winston-Salem

Gregory G. Holland

Smith Moore LLP

Greensboro

Mark Horoschak

Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice PLLC

Charlotte

Douglas W. Kenyon

Hunton & Williams LLP

Raleigh

George L. Little

Kilpatrick Stockton LLP

Winston-Salem

Mark W. Merritt

Robinson, Bradshaw & Hinson PA

Charlotte

Pressly M. Millen

Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice PLLC

Raleigh

John M. Murchison

Kennedy Covington Lobdell & Hickman LLP

Charlotte

Jeffrey E. Oleynik

Brooks, Pierce, McLendon, Humphrey & Leonard LLP

Greensboro

Norman B. Smith

Smith, James, Rowlett & Cohen LLP

Greensboro

Robert W. Spearman

Parker Poe Adams & Bernstein LLP

Raleigh

Whenever he can get away, Everett Bowman grabs a canoe and paddle. He spends many weekends slashing through the white waters of the Ocoee, French Broad or Nantahala rivers. The scenery is lovely, the outdoor air invigorating, but what really excites him is working the currents. "If you line up the right way on a riffle or wave, you can ferry yourself across the river with a minimum of strokes, maybe one or two," he says. The best part is "when you can use the water to help you do what you want to do."

No battles, no drama--just smart, efficient moves. That's the way he practices law as well. In a 25-year career, he has become one of the state's top antitrust lawyers. "No matter what's happening, he can keep it all straight in his mind and explain things in an understandable way," says Matt Sawchak, an antitrust lawyer in Raleigh.

That has come in handy on a recent federal court case. Bowman represents Fort Mill, S.C.-based Springs Industries and Bowling Green, Ky.-based Fruit of the Loom, which joined with other textile manufacturers in 2003 to sue four suppliers of polyester fiber they contended were price fixing. Settlement talks brought together a roomful of lawyers, and tempers inevitably flared. With a joke here and a firm hand there, Bowman, who led the manufacturers' legal team, kept the negotiations going. Three suppliers have settled. "When people talk about letting cooler heads prevail," Sawchak says, "Everett is always one of those cooler heads."

He was born in Wilmington, the son of a railroad conductor. He passed up a Morehead Scholarship to UNC to enroll at Harvard, where he earned a bachelor's in history and literature. A fellowship took him to Cambridge University, where he studied English literature. Bowman was on the path to academia, but seeing the oversupply of English professors, he veered into law school. After graduation, he spent a year as a clerk for Judge Gerald Tjoflat on the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Jacksonville, Fla. There he worked on a big case involving price fixing in the corrugated-container industry. He considered heading to Atlanta to practice law, but Tjoflat gave him some advice: "People who are native North Carolinians usually end up back in North Carolina, so you ought to save yourself a few years elsewhere and just go directly to North Carolina." He landed at Robinson, Bradshaw & Hinson in Charlotte.

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He helped on a criminal case concerning price fixing by paving companies and began holding antitrust-compliance seminars for the firm's clients. Soon he was doing more antitrust work than anyone else at the firm. In the '80s, Bowman worked with Robinson Bradshaw partner Ward McKeithen defending Jantzen against a lawsuit brought by a Gastonia discount store. Jantzen had stopped selling swimsuits to the store, which contended that Jantzen had conspired with Belk department stores to harm its business. A related case went to the Supreme Court, and Jantzen prevailed.

Antitrust cases rarely make it to trial, which is fine by Bowman. "Two of my favorite things about practicing antitrust law are brief writing and letter writing. Often I see that lawyers write very belligerent, angry letters threatening all kinds of terrible consequences. That tone tends to drive parties farther apart. I see my role as being a problem solver more so than a no-holds-barred advocate."

One problem he helped solve more than a decade ago was how to bring together the small group of antitrust lawyers in the state. He and others championed the creation of an antitrust section of the North Carolina Bar Association. Their efforts succeeded in 1990. "It's a forum where people can educate each other and encourage each other, and that's consistent with the way Everett is," Sawchak says. "He holds himself to high standards, and he helps other people to achieve high standards, also."

--Lisa Davis

EVERETT J. BOWMAN

Robinson, Bradshaw & Hinson PA, Charlotte

Born: July 26, 1953

Education: bachelor's, Harvard University, 1975; law, 1979, Cambridge University

Family: divorced

Legal philosophy: "Focus first on solving the client's problem rather than demolishing the client's adversary."

Recent books read: Assembling California by John McPhee and The Stories of John Cheever

Good works: Helped found Wolf Creek Adventures, a nonprofit that helps at-risk children build skills through canoeing

BANKRUPTCY

C. Richard Rayburn Jr.

Rayburn Cooper & Durham PA

Charlotte

William E. Brewer

The Brewer Law Firm

Raleigh

Algernon L. Butler III

Butler & Butler LLP

Wilmington

James O. Carter

Carter & Huffine PA

Wilmington

Langdon M. Cooper

Mullen Holland & Cooper PA

Gastonia

Albert F. Durham

Rayburn Cooper...

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