Kenneth R. Keller, President, Greensboro Bar Association

Message from the President, Sept 2016

With service and Bar initiatives and selection of nominees for District Court judgeships, we have a full agenda for 2016-17.  On local service and Bar initiatives, we are continuing our successful book project at Jones Elementary, local CLE/Colloquium offerings, annual fundraiser for Legal Aid, Herb Falk Society, Holiday Party at Elon, Second Chance Expungement project, and a day of service with multiple projects.  As the year progresses, we will feature details on each in this newsletter.

On statewide Bar initiatives, our first speaker will be Will Robinson, the Executive Director of the North Carolina Commission on the Administration of Law and Justice.  Chief Justice Mark Martin convened the North Carolina Commission on the Administration of Law and Justice (NCCALJ) in September of 2015 and charged its members to evaluate the North Carolina judicial system and provide recommendations for strengthening our courts. Commission members were drawn statewide from business, academia, the bar, the non-profit sector, the Legislature, and the Judicial Branch to ensure a well-rounded evaluation of the judicial system.  Each of the members serves on one of five NCCALJ committees studying the areas of civil justice, criminal investigation and adjudication, legal professionalism, public trust and confidence, and technology.

Presently, public hearings are being conducted throughout the state to obtain feedback from the public.  On August 3, 2016, over 100 people attended the hearing held at GTCC.  Overwhelmingly, comments were in favor of raising the jurisdictional age for non-violent juvenile criminal offenses and changing the process by which judges are selected.  The Committee will be taking comments through August 31, 2016 (information and forms are at http://nccalj.org/interim-reports/) and we encourage you to comment.

On the 18th Judicial District Bar front, we will be sending out notices in the near future announcing a joint 18th Judicial District/18H Judicial District Bar meeting to select 5 nominees for the District Court Judge position that has become vacant with the resignation of Judge Enochs.  As part of the meeting, we anticipate that we will also be submitting proposed amendments to both the 18th Judicial District Bylaws and the Bylaws for High Point’s 18H Judicial District to harmonize the Bylaws for both districts, allow notice by e-mail, and comply with section 7A-142 requirements for the selection process.

Your Board of Directors and Committee Chairs are already actively at work and, with your involvement, look forward to a productive year!

Legal Aid CLE – September 1

Legal Aid of North Carolina and the Advocates for Children’s Services is getting ready for the school year and is putting on a CLE that will be free for those who are currently and are interested in volunteering with Legal Aid. The cost is $75 otherwise. Education rights of children is an important topic and we are looking forward working with everyone who would like to volunteer. The training will focus on school discipline, special education, enrollment, and bullying issues.

CLE: The Kids are Alright: Zealously Representing Students in Education Matters

Thursday, September 1, 2016. 12-1:30 p.m..
1.5 hours of general CLE credit.

Register at: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/1130723840402738436

Tom Kane

Do Your Clients Refer You or Your Firm To Others? Most Don’t!

By Tom Kane (Reprinted from Tom’s LegalMarketingBlog.com dated June 9, 2016)

According to a survey by The BTI Consulting Group, only 40.1% of clients recommend their primary law firm to a peer. As bad as that statistic is, the good news is that it is better by almost 7% over the previous year, and better slightly than five years ago.  According to the survey it “still leaves more than half of all clients wanting.”

As I, and many others have consistently stated, clients hire lawyers they know, like and trust.  Clients consider not only the quality of the legal product, but also how the services are provided.  Referrals from satisfied clients is the “express lane” to more work and new business.

So, what should you do?  A few recommendations include:

Seek feedback (No. 3 on my list of Top Ten Marketing Tips)

Set goals that match those of the client

Invest in understanding the client’s business (a failing I’ve heard from clients over the years)

Don’t wait for the client to ask about succession plans

Educate the clients “in new, high-value topics” (off-the-clock I would add)

The good news is that more and more firms, according to BTI, are doing a better job of systematically adopting practices to “improve client service on a continuing basis.”

Are you and your firm doing the same?

Tom Kane is a member of the Greensboro Bar Association and former NC Assistant Attorney General. He has spent the past 30-plus years as an in-house legal marketer and consultant to law firms throughout the U.S. He is the author of LegalMarketingBlog.com. He can be reached at (386) 225-9612.

Brooks Pierce Partner Becomes President of North Carolina Bar Association

Kearns Davis, a partner in the Greensboro office of Brooks Pierce, was sworn in as the 122nd president of the North Carolina Bar Association (NCBA) on June 25 at the organization’s annual meeting in Charlotte. Davis is the second Brooks Pierce attorney to serve as president of the NCBA. Aubrey Brooks, one of the firm’s founding partners, led the association from 1916-1917.

“I’m deeply honored by the trust my fellow lawyers have placed in me. I look forward to working with attorneys, judges and citizens across the state to help meet the legal challenges of our time,” Davis said. “Brooks Pierce was built on a foundation of service and leadership in the legal profession and the communities we serve. I’m deeply grateful for my partners’ tremendous support.”

Davis heads Brooks Pierce’s white-collar criminal defense and investigations practice, and handles a wide range of federal and business litigation. He previously served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of North Carolina, where he was the United States’ lead prosecutor in felony trials for a broad spectrum of federal crimes, and as a law clerk to the late Chief Judge Sam J. Ervin, III, of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. He has taught trial advocacy at the University of North Carolina School of Law, the Elon University School of Law, and the U.S. Department of Justice’s National Advocacy Center.

“Since joining Brooks Pierce in 1996, Kearns has demonstrated the Brooks Pierce brand of extraordinary commitment to our clients, exceptional integrity, and mastery of a demanding practice, all while taking on many leadership roles within the North Carolina Bar Association,” said Reid Phillips, the firm’s managing partner. “He is truly dedicated to advancing the legal profession. The North Carolina Bar Association could not have chosen a better lawyer or more accomplished leader to be its next president.”

Black, Slaughter & Black Announces Two New Partners and an Associate

The law firm of Black, Slaughter & Black announces the naming of two new partners: Carole Albright, a State Bar Certified Family Law Specialist, and Theodora Vaporis, who heads up the firm’s Estate Planning & Administration Department.  Adam Marshall has joined the firm as an associate attorney with a primary focus of real estate and community association (HOA and condo) law. Black, Slaughter & Black (formerly Rossabi Black Slaughter) has a new website address of www.lawfirmcarolinas.com.

Adam Marshall

Adam Marshall

Carole Albright

Carole Albright

Theodora Vaporis

Theodora Vaporis

SportsBusiness Journal Recognizes Erik Albright as ‘Power Player’

Smith Moore Leatherwood partner Erik Albright has been included in “Power Players: Sports Lawyers and Outside Counsel” by SportsBusiness Journal.  The publication recognizes honorees for their influence on the profession, depth of client list and overall body of work.

erik albright

erik albright

Albright’s inclusion within this distinguished group reflects his representation of clients in the sports industry.  His clients have included colleges, universities and collegiate athletic conferences; professional football, baseball and soccer teams; the local organizers of Greensboro’s PGA TOUR golf tournament; a national amateur sports organization; and multiple other sports organizations, sports insurers and outdoor adventure sports centers.  He also has taught sports law as an adjunct faculty member at Wake Forest School of Law and Elon University School of law.  In addition, he serves as an active member of the national Sports Lawyers Association and he is the secretary and past treasurer of the Sports and Entertainment Law Section of the North Carolina Bar Association.

Albright earned his bachelor’s degree from Duke University and law degree from Vanderbilt University School of Law. He has practiced law for 26 years with Smith Moore Leatherwood and, in addition to sports law, also focuses on civil litigation including complex commercial and antitrust litigation and general tort and insurance coverage matters.  He has been recognized by North Carolina Super Lawyers and Business North Carolina’s Legal Elite for his general litigation practice, and by The Best Lawyers in America® for commercial litigation and personal injury litigation.

Smith Moore Leatherwood Achieves Top Rankings across Seven Practice Areas in 2016 Chambers USA Guide

Smith Moore Leatherwood is pleased to announce that twenty-five attorneys have earned recognition in the 2016 Chambers USA Guide by Chambers and Partners, publisher of the world’s leading guides to the legal profession.

The firm also received rankings across seven key practice areas, including recognition in North and South Carolina for work in: Litigation, Corporate/Mergers & Acquisitions and Real Estate. In North Carolina the firm was awarded the highest Band 1 ranking for Health Care and was also recognized for its Environment, Labor & Employment, and Intellectual Property practices. The firm was recognized in Georgia for its Health Care practice.

Three attorneys from the firm’s Greensboro office and one from the Raleigh office received Chambers’ highest Band 1 ranking in North Carolina in their respective practice areas – Maureen Demarest Murray and Robert L. Wilson Jr. for Health Care; Julianna Theall Earp for Labor & Employment; and Thomas E. Terrell Jr. for Real Estate: Zoning/Land Use. In addition, two attorneys in North Carolina made their first appearance on the list – Laura Deddish Burton (Greensboro) for Labor & Employment: Immigration, and Patricia A. Markus (Raleigh) for Health Care.

In its 17th year of publication, the Chambers USA Guide is an annual ranking of leading lawyers and law firms in the United States. Results are obtained through hours of research and thousands of interviews with clients and lawyers, with greater weight given to the views of clients. The qualities on which the rankings are assessed include technical legal ability, professional conduct, client service, commercial astuteness, diligence, commitment, and other qualities highly valued by clients.

A client interviewed by Chambers commented, “They treat the business relationship as a partnership, and approach our problems as their problems; they’re excellent.”

The 25 Smith Moore Leatherwood attorneys recognized as leaders in their states and practice areas include:

Corporate/ M&A

E. Kent Auberry, Greensboro, NC

Frank C. Williams III, Greenville, SC

Environment

Stephen W. Earp, Greensboro, NC

Mona Cunningham O’Bryant, Greensboro, NC

Health Care

Terrill Johnson Harris, Greensboro, NC

Barry S. Herrin, Atlanta, GA

Patricia A. Markus, Raleigh, NC

Maureen Demarest Murray, Greensboro, NC

Lawrence J. Myers, Atlanta, GA

Tobin N. Watt, Atlanta, GA

Robert L. Wilson Jr., Raleigh, NC

Labor & Employment

Laura Deddish Burton, Greensboro, NC

Julianna Theall Earp, Greensboro, NC

Alexander L. Maultsby, Greensboro, NC

George J. Oliver, Raleigh, NC

Patti West Ramseur, Greensboro, NC

Litigation

Steven E. Farrar, Greenville, SC

Robert R. Marcus, Charlotte, NC

Robert D. Moseley Jr., Greenville, SC

Larry B. Sitton, Charlotte, NC (Senior Statesmen)

Fred M. Wood Jr., Charlotte, NC

Real Estate

Michele Fuller Lyerly, Greenville, SC

Charles E. Melvin Jr., Greensboro, NC (Senior Statesmen)

Marvin A. Quattlebaum, Greenville, SC

Thomas E. Terrell Jr., Greensboro, NC

Lisa Arthur, President, Young Lawyers Section, Greensboro Bar Association

Young Lawyers Section: Connections

My name is Lisa Arthur and I am the Young Lawyers Section president. This year at YLS we are all about connections—connecting young lawyers to other lawyers and young professionals, connecting young lawyers to volunteer opportunities, and connecting young lawyers to the Greensboro community.  I will use this column each month to update you about what is going on with YLS and how you can connect with us.

Book Buddies. Book Buddies is a volunteer program that YLS created and supports every year.  The program pairs lawyers with classrooms at Hampton Elementary to read aloud to the class for thirty minutes to an hour.  The great thing about the program is that it’s flexible—once you’re paired with a classroom, you work with the teacher to schedule mutually agreeable reading times.  Our goal is to fully staff Hampton’s pre-K through second-grade classes and expand to another Guilford County school. Book Buddies is open to all GBA members, so you don’t have to be a young lawyer to volunteer with us. To find out more about Book Buddies and how you can volunteer, please see article on page 6.

Backpack Beginnings. Our first YLS event this year will be with Backpack Beginnings on Thursday, September 14, 2016, at 4:00 p.m. with a happy hour to follow. Come meet new YLS members and help stuff “comfort” backpacks for Guilford County kids.  To RSVP for this event, please email me at lisa.arthur@smithmoorelaw.com.

Swearing-in Ceremony/Bridge the Gap Program.  Please mark your calendars for Friday, October 14, 2016.  Our Bridge the Gap Program starts at 9:00 a.m. and provides a great opportunity for new lawyers to tour the Federal, State, and Bankruptcy Courts.  Our Swearing-In Ceremony will begin at 3:00 p.m. at the Commissioners’ Room located on the second floor of the Old Courthouse (301 W. Market Street).  We would love for members of the GBA to join us and support our newly licensed attorneys. If you are a newly licensed attorney or know of a newly licensed attorney, please e-mail me directly at lisa.arthur@smithmoorelaw.com so I can send you the application materials.

Lisa Arthur is President of the Greensboro Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Section and an attorney with Smith Moore Leatherwood in the litigation practice group. Follow YLS on Facebook

Camille Stell

Wire Instruction Fraud Plagues NC Lawyers

Over the last few weeks, Lawyers Mutual has received multiple reports of North Carolina attorneys who were targeted by scammers attempting to divert seller closing proceeds following real estate transactions.  Unfortunately, several of these attacks were successful and hundreds of thousands of dollars were stolen and are very unlikely to be recovered.

I’ve asked our claims attorney, Troy Crawford, to talk with me about what went wrong and how to prevent it.

Troy: While the details of the recent scams are emerging, it appears hackers first became aware of the closing by compromising email accounts of differing parties.  Sometimes the attorney account was compromised, sometimes the Seller’s account was compromised but the most common scenario was the Realtor’s account was being monitored by international criminal organizations.

Camille: Sounds scary. How does this scam work?

Troy: The foreign-based hackers would observe the account, likely for several weeks, and only actively intervene once an understanding of the business practices were obtained and a significant wire was to be produced.  In the interim, the unsuspecting Realtor would continue to use the account unaware his or her client and the closing attorney were being set up to be robbed.

Camille: What can lawyers do to avoid falling victim to the latest series of scams?

Troy: EVERY wire request should be verified and the more personal the verification, the better. The best way to verify wiring instructions is to have the Seller sign the wiring instructions at the closing ceremony in the presence of the attorney.  We know of no wire fraud which has taken place when this has occurred, and even if it did, the closing attorney would likely be insulated from liability by the doctrine of contributory negligence.

If the Seller is unable to attend the ceremony, we recommend the wiring instructions be included in the same package in which the deed is delivered.  In these situations, have the Seller sign wiring instructions and have the signature notarized, if possible.  Even then, we recommend the Seller verify the closing instructions over the telephone via a call initiated by the law office, using contact information from very early in the file prior to any discussion of proceeds and wires.

Confirming a telephone call verification via email is a good practice and a great way to document the file.  However, an email verification alone is inadequate.

If at all possible, do not accept changes to wiring instructions.

Camille: Many professionals are still using free email services such as gmail, yahoo, aol.com, and nc.rr.com. What are your thoughts about the risk with these free services?

Troy: If wiring instructions are attached to an email from a free email service (gmail, yahoo, aol.com, nc.rr.com, etc.) they should be assumed to be fraudulent and extra diligence should be taken in verifying their authenticity. Sometimes hackers will set up an alias account with a very similar name (frequently dropping or swapping letters) to send modified instructions so the authentic user is not aware of their presence.  Examining the account name in detail is a good idea; however, as the hacker already has access to the original account, he or she may be not take this step and will use the same account that all other correspondence used.

Attorneys should be using secure email. Secure email essentially means that an email travels from sender to recipient without interruption, alteration, or interception. It allows the recipient to be sure of the sender’s identify and the validity of any attachments to the email. Most free email services do not offer these protections that you pay for with secure email providers.  In addition, free email services are likely non-complaint with the ALTA Best Practices because of these major security concerns and the emails are likely being mined for data by their providers in violation of Rule 1.6 of the Rules of Professional Conduct.

If you are currently using a free service, immediate action should be taken to find a more secure and professional alternative.  In the interim, it is possible to see when and from where the free account was recently accessed.  Here is a link explaining how to do it for gmail accounts:  http://www.groovypost.com/howto/check-gmail-login-activity/ Other services should have similar abilities.  If you see suspicious activity, please immediately change account passwords and contact your professional liability carrier along with your cyber or crime carrier.

Camille: What are some other red flags?

Troy: Be very suspicious of wires going to any account that is not in the name of the Seller.  Also, be suspicious of any account with a geographic location different than the Seller.  Why is a North Carolina Seller relocating to New York sending a wire to Wisconsin? There are some reasons for the different names and odd locations, but these are red flags which should be explored in detail (and not via email).

Do NOT send wires overseas.  Once money leaves the United States, it is likely gone forever.

Finally, regularly change your passwords.

While these policies appear harsh, hacking crimes can be devastating to a law firm’s finances and reputation.  Explaining the policy up front to your clients is a good way to limit negative actions. Also, be sure to share this information with your support staff. Many paralegals are on the front line of communications concerning closing instructions.

Below is sample language Lawyers Mutual recommends to be included in your Seller engagement letter:

Funds Availability Policy.
It is our goal to make real estate commission checks and funds available as soon as practical following closing.  However, NC State Bar Rules expressly prohibit disbursing any closing funds prior to recording.  Should you request funds be wired, our office can accommodate the request for a fee of $___.00.   In order to prevent fraud and protect your proceeds, all wiring instructions must be will be verified and you will be required to sign the instructions at the closing ceremony.  THIS OFFICE WILL NOT ACCEPT CHANGES TO WIRING INSTRUCTIONS.

Camille Stell is the Vice President of Client Services and Troy Crawford is a claims lawyer for Lawyers Mutual. Continue this conversation by contacting Camille at camille@lawyersmutualnc.com or Troy at troy@lawyersmutualnc.com or 800.662.8843 for an in-house presentation on Cyber Security. Contact Adam Pierce, AAI, Director of P&C Operations with Lawyers Insurance for information on cyber insurance policies at adam@lawyersmutualnc.com.

NCAWA 2016 Annual Conference

The NCAWA Education Committee is excited to announce our 2016 Annual Conference will be held September 22nd through September 24th, 2016 at the Crowne Plaza Resort in beautiful Asheville, North Carolina! We have a great weekend planned with CLE courses (up to 5 credit hours available) and speakers on a number of big issues arising for women in the legal profession here in North Carolina.

To register, follow this link: NCAWA 2016 Annual Conference

To view the Conference Brochure with detailed information about CLE court offerings and the weekend agenda,
follow this link: 2016 Conference Brochure

The NCAWA room block is active and you can set up your reservation now by following the instructions below:

Call our toll-free number 1-888-211-7755 (24/7) and mention the group name NC Association of Women Attorneys in order to receive the special group rate.

Visit the Crowne Plaza website and book online: www.ashevillecp.com

  Check Availability (enter dates of stay) and enter Group Code: WAT

You can use this link to automatically add the group code when booking online: Make Your Reservations Online!

If you have any questions about the 2016 Annual Conference, please contact either Manisha P. Patel (manisha.p.patel@gmail.com) or Alexis Solheim (alexis.solheim@gmail.com), NCAWA Education Chairs.

NCAWA 2016 Annual Conference

NCAWA 2016 Annual Conference