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


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).


Everett J. Bowman

Robinson, Bradshaw & Hinson PA


Michael R. Abel

Schell Bray Aycock Abel & Livingston PLLC


Noel Allen

Allen & Pinnix PA


Catharine Biggs Arrowood

Parker Poe Adams & Bernstein LLP


Charles Gordon Brown

Brown & Bunch PLLC

Chapel Hill

Dan Clodfelter

Moore & Van Allen PLLC


W. Andrew Copenhaver

Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice PLLC


J. Donald Cowan Jr.

Smith Moore LLP


Richard W. Ellis

Ellis & Winters LLP


James R. Fox

Bell, Davis & Pitt PA


John F. Graybeal

Parker Poe Adams & Bernstein LLP


Denise M. Gunter

Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP


Gregory G. Holland

Smith Moore LLP


Mark Horoschak

Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice PLLC


Douglas W. Kenyon

Hunton & Williams LLP


George L. Little

Kilpatrick Stockton LLP


Mark W. Merritt

Robinson, Bradshaw & Hinson PA


Pressly M. Millen

Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice PLLC


John M. Murchison

Kennedy Covington Lobdell & Hickman LLP


Jeffrey E. Oleynik

Brooks, Pierce, McLendon, Humphrey & Leonard LLP


Norman B. Smith

Smith, James, Rowlett & Cohen LLP


Robert W. Spearman

Parker Poe Adams & Bernstein LLP


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.


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


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


C. Richard Rayburn Jr.

Rayburn Cooper & Durham PA


William E. Brewer

The Brewer Law Firm


Algernon L. Butler III

Butler & Butler LLP


James O. Carter

Carter & Huffine PA


Langdon M. Cooper

Mullen Holland & Cooper PA


Albert F. Durham

Rayburn Cooper...

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