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2007 Legal Elite

These members of the bar are top-shelf: the state's best lawyers, picked by their peers, in 14 categories.

What prompts someone to become a lawyer, let alone one so skillful in a field as to be picked by peers as among the state’s best? In many cases, a career can be shaped by another job, even that person’s first, which usually has nothing to do with the practice of law. Toiling in a tobacco field, textile mill or machine shop can inspire a desire to work with the mind instead of the hands. Skills learned teaching school, tactics to capture and keep a classroom’sattention, can provide valuable lessons in how to sway juries. Just ask the top-ranking members of the Legal Elite, Business North Carolina’s annual list of top Tar Heel lawyers.

One winner found that even a job as a janitor in a nursing home taught valuable lessons — if not in law, then in life. For those who received the most votes in each category, there’s a photo harking back to that early job and commentary on how it helped. The Legal Elite, as it has been for the six years of its existence, is chosen not by BNC editors but by the state’s lawyers.

The magazine mailed nearly 18,000 ballots — one to every member of the State Bar living in North Carolina — asking each a simple question: Of the Tar Heel lawyers whose work you have observed firsthand, whom would you rate among the current best in these categories? This time around, we added two categories — family law and lawyers younger than 40 — bringing the total to 14. Voters were not allowed to vote for themselves. They could select members of their firms only if they picked out-of-firm lawyers in the same categories, with the latter votes weighted more heavily. Past winners become members of the Legal Elite Hall of Fame and are ineligible to win again.

Response to the balloting was up nearly 20%, with more than 2,500 lawyers receiving votes. But the list still lives up to its name: Only 607 — slightly more than 3% of the State Bar membership — made this year’s Legal Elite.

How elite is it? Less than 3% of the state’s lawyers made it. Profiles of those getting the most votes in each category are listed on the links below.

Legal Elite Methodology

The Legal Elite is chosen not by Business North Carolina editors but by the state’s lawyers. In early June 2006, the magazine mailed nearly 18,000 ballots — one to every member of the State Bar living in North Carolina — asking each a simple question: Of the Tar Heel lawyers whose work you have observed firsthand, whom would you rate among the current best in these categories? This time around, we added two categories — family law and lawyers younger than 40 — bringing the total to 14. Voters were not allowed to vote for themselves. They could select members of their firms only if they picked out-of-firm lawyers in the same categories, with the latter votes weighted more heavily. Past winners become members of the Legal Elite Hall of Fame and are ineligible to win again. Ballot deadline was July 17, 2006.

Each ballot has a unique number corresponding to the State Bar list. Lawyers may submit only one ballot; when votes are counted each lawyer is checked off the master list to prevent duplicate voting. All ballots are tallied, with the top winners in each category making the list. Letters are sent to each lawyer to confirm their firm affiliation and practice location in NC. Response to the balloting was up nearly 20%, with more than 2,500 lawyers receiving votes. But the list still lives up to its name: Only 607 — slightly more than 3% of the State Bar membership — made the 2007 Legal Elite. This is the sixth year of the published listing.