Swearing-In Ceremony & Bridge the Gap Scheduled for Oct. 13

If you are a newly licensed attorney, we strongly encourage you to participate in the 2017 Swearing-In Ceremony and Bridge the Gap Programs on Friday, October 13, 2017.  Bridge the Gap provides the new attorneys with a guided tour of various local landmarks in our legal community such as the Federal, State, and Bankruptcy Courts along with the District Attorneys Office and Clerk of Court.  A reception will follow at Churchill’s on Elm St.
If you are not a newly licensed attorney, please help us spread the word about these events and circulate the 2017 Swearing-In Application Packet to the new associates at your respective offices. This is an excellent networking event for everyone in GBA and YLS to meet the newest members of our local bar.  Come out and show your support for the new attorneys on Friday, October 13!

Smith Moore Leatherwood Welcomes Justice Robert H. Edmunds Jr.

Smith Moore Leatherwood LLP is pleased to announce the addition of former North Carolina Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Edmunds Jr. Edmunds will join the firm’s appellate group effective July 1, 2017.

“We are thrilled to have Justice Edmunds joining our practice,” said Matt Leerberg, appellate practice group leader. “Justice Edmunds has a proven dedication to the rule of law and is renowned for his commitment to excellence. Our clients will benefit greatly from his insights into the appellate process and his keen strategic mind. The addition of Justice Edmunds solidifies the Smith Moore Leatherwood appellate team’s place as one of the most respected practices in the state.”

Robert H. Edmunds Jr.

Robert H. Edmunds Jr.

Edmunds served as a Justice on the Supreme Court of North Carolina from 2001 through 2016. Prior to his election to the Supreme Court, he began his legal career as an assistant district attorney in Greensboro, N.C. and later was an assistant united states attorney for the Middle District of North Carolina. In 1986, he was appointed United States attorney for the Middle District of North Carolina by President Ronald Reagan and was retained by President George H. W. Bush. Edmunds entered private practice in 1993 and earned the highest rating from Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory.  While in private practice, he was board certified as a specialist in state and federal criminal law, and board certified as a specialist in appellate practice. In 1998, he was elected to the North Carolina Court of Appeals and served on that court until his election to the Supreme Court.

“I’ve been privileged to serve in various roles across the state over the course of my legal career,” Edmunds said. “I’ve seen first-hand the work of Smith Moore Leatherwood attorneys and know why they enjoy such an outstanding reputation. I’m honored to join them and look forward to working with these talented lawyers to expand the firm’s appellate practice.”

Edmunds serves on various boards and committees and frequently contributes his time to the community. He is a member of the board of directors of BarCares and of the North Carolina Supreme Court Historical Society. He is also an elected member of the American Law Institute. Previously, he has been an adjunct professor at Campbell University School of Law. Edmunds is a member of the Greensboro Rotary Club and has donated blood more than 100 times since college.

Edmunds received his A.B. degree from Vassar College and his J.D. from the University of North Carolina School of Law. Following law school, he served as a line officer in the United States Navy from 1975 to 1977. He later received his Master of Law in the Judicial Process from the University of Virginia School of Law.

Grant Sigmon is President of the Greensboro Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Section and is an attorney with Sigmon Klein, PLLC.

Young Lawyers Section: Connections, Sept 2017

This Fall, the Young Lawyers Section has planned several events for its members and the local community.  We look forward to catching up with everyone and meeting new members at these upcoming events!

Backpack Beginnings.  The Young Lawyers Section is partnering with Backpack Beginnings for our first event to stuff backpacks as part of its Comfort Backpack Program.  These backpacks will offer care, comfort and basic necessities, including blankets, stuffed animals, books, hygiene products, school supplies and more. The backpacks will be provided to abused/neglected, homeless, foster, and refugee children in Guilford County.  We will be meeting on Thursday, September 14 at 4:30 p.m. at 3707-D Alliance Drive, Greensboro, NC 27407.  To RSVP for this event, please email Hillary Kies at hkies@turningpointlit.com.

Happy Hour.  A happy hour at Fat Dog’s Grille and Pub will follow the Backpack Beginnings event on Thursday, September 14 from 6:00-8:00 p.m. on the patio.  Fat Dog’s Grille and Pub is located on 3021 Spring Garden Street, Greensboro.  All YLS members are invited to attend.

Swearing-in Ceremony/Bridge the Gap Program.  Please mark your calendars for Friday, October 13, 2017.  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. (Location TBD).  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 you know a newly licensed attorney, please e-mail Kristen Redman at kredman@tuggleduggins.com to receive the application materials.

Book Buddies.  Book Buddies is a volunteer program that YLS created and supports every year.  The program pairs lawyers with classrooms at Hampton Elementary. The lawyers 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 visit our website at www.greensboroyls.org/book-buddies.

Connect with Us.  Do you want more information about upcoming YLS events or how you can get involved? Check out our website at www.greensboroyls.org.  E-mail Grant Sigmon (grant@sklawnc.com) to make sure you are on the listserv.  Also follow us on Facebook (Greensboro Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Section).  We look forward to connecting with you!


Join the GBA Young Laywers Section on September 14, 2017, for our first service project and out first networking happy hour of the year!

We will fill backpacks for the children in the Triad at Backpack Beginnings at 4:30 p.m. and will follow up
with an evening of networking and relaxing on the patio of Fat Dog’s Grille and Pub, beginning at 6:00 p.m.

Please join us whether you are a new or seasoned Young Lawyer! We want your participation and we want to meet you!

Backpack Beginnings: 3707-D Alliance Drive, Greenboro NC 27407

Fat Dog’s Grille & Pub: 3021 Sprin Garden Street, Greensboro NC 27403

Higgins Benjamin Announces New Partners

Frederick L. Berry Joins Firm, Margaret McNairy Chase Becomes Partner

Frederick L. Berry

Frederick L. Berry

Margaret McNairy Chase

Margaret McNairy Chase

Higgins Benjamin, PLLC, is pleased to announce that Frederick L. (Fred) Berry has joined the firm as a partner.  He is a veteran litigator who has secured multi-million- dollar recoveries for his injured clients, and he has been co-lead counsel in significant consumer fraud class actions.  Prior to joining the firm, he practiced with Vance Barron, who recently retired. A graduate of Wake Forest University undergraduate and law schools, Fred has taken leadership roles in various organizations including Piedmont Land Conservancy, Summit Rotary, the Greensboro Bar Association, and the North Carolina Advocates for Justice.  For fun, he is a cowboy, mounted foxhunter, and fly fisherman.

Higgins Benjamin, PLLC, is likewise pleased to announce that Margaret McNairy Chase has become a partner in the firm.  Chase, who joined the firm in 2014, is a graduate of Wake Forest University School of Law and received her undergraduate degree in Political Science from Furman University.  Her practice focuses on Real Estate Law with an emphasis on Homeowner and Condominium Associations.  Today, Chase provides counsel and legal advice to over 240 community associations throughout North Carolina.  A Greensboro native, Margaret graduated from Page High School and remains active in the local community, having held positions in various local civic groups, including First Presbyterian Church, the Greensboro Rotary Club, Greensboro Bar Association, the Junior League and Morehead Elementary PTA.  Margaret has mentored Elon Law School students, worked in the Governor’s Office, and is a graduate of Leadership Greensboro.

Established in 2002, Higgins Benjamin has a reputation for generating favorable results for their clients throughout North Carolina. The firm’s practice areas include appeals, bankruptcy, commercial litigation, complex civil litigation, corporate, employment, homeowner’s associations, intellectual property, estate planning and administration, family law, real estate and more.  With fifteen attorneys and a full support staff, the firm offers clients a high level of service in providing comprehensive legal solutions to even the most complex legal matters. The firm is located in the heart of downtown Greensboro at 301 North Elm Street. For more information, please visit the firm’s web site: www.greensborolaw.com.

Greensboro Bar Association 2017-18 Officers and Board of Directors

Greensboro Bar Association
2017-18 Officers & Board of Directors





Sarah H. Roane




Hon. Teresa Vincent



Immediate Past President

Kenneth R. Keller




Chelsea E. Anderson




Desmond G. Sheridan



Director (2018)

Thomas D. Carruthers



Director (2018)

Abigail E. Peoples



Director (2018)

Robert J. King, III



Director (2019)

Nicholas J. Bakatsias



Director (2019)

Hon. William B. Davis



Director (2019)

Kimberly B. Gatling



Director (2020)

Gerald L. Walden, Jr.



Director (2020)

Lisa W. Arthur



Director (2020)

Frederick L. Berry



Committee Chairs

Awards and Recognitions

Erwin Fuller




Bob King



Desmond Sheridan



Community Involvement

Melissa Duncan



Hon. Teresa Vincent



Elon Liaison

Jennifer Mencarini



Elementary School Project

Erin Reis



Adam Kerr



Health & Wellness

Martha Peddrick



Bill Davis



Herb Falk Society

Eric Richardson



History and Archives

Mark Gaylord



Larry Moore



Holiday Party

Lisa Arthur



Kim Gatling



Legal Aid Fundraiser

Johnna Herron



Recruit & Retain

Ames Chamberlin



Molly Hilburn-Holte




Richard Gabriel




Clayton Krohn




Ken Keller



Public Relations

Kelly Walker



Second Chance Project

Pat Kane



Tom Carruthers



High Point Bar Liaison

Allie Petrova



Section Heads

Family Law Section

Sarah L. Kettles



Real Property

Desmond G. Sheridan



Young Lawyers

J. Grant Sigmon





Diane Lowe



Ward Black Law Attorney Manisha Patel Appointed Vice President of NCAWA

Family law attorney Manisha P. Patel, of Ward Black Law, was recently appointed as Vice President of the North Carolina Association of Women Attorneys (NCAWA). Patel began her term as Vice President on June 1, 2017 and will serve through December 31, 2017. Her previous roles on the Executive State Board of NCAWA include Education Committee Chair and Secretary.

Family law attorney Manisha P. Patel, of Ward Black Law

Manisha P. Patel

The NCAWA is a statewide non-profit organization founded in 1978 with the mission to promote the participation of women in the legal profession and advance the rights and welfare of women under the law. The efforts of the NCAWA throughout the years have resulted in the passing of numerous laws improving the welfare of women and children in the state of North Carolina on issues including domestic violence, equitable distribution of marital property, and child support enforcement.

“We are thankful that Manisha has been selected to serve in this leadership role with the NCAWA,” says Janet Ward Black, Founder and Managing Attorney at Ward Black Law. “Her hard work and dedication will greatly benefit this organization, and we’re proud of her accomplishment.”

Manisha P. Patel earned her Juris Doctor from Elon University School of Law and holds undergraduate degrees in both economics and history from Virginia Tech. With a focus on family law, Patel joined Ward Black Law as a contract attorney in 2013 where she offers compassionate legal support to clients during emotionally stressful transitions. She has been involved with the Piedmont Triad Women Attorneys, a local chapter of the NCAWA, since 2015 and currently serves as President.

Ward Black Law is one of the largest woman-owned firms in North Carolina. The firm represents people in accident injury, workers’ compensation, defective products, family law, veterans’ disability, and other matters. For more about Ward Black Law, visit www.wardblacklaw.com

Second Chance Project Gears Up for its Third Year

The Second Chance Project, a Greensboro Bar Association pro bono initiative designed to assist eligible and deserving individuals with criminal record expungement, is now entering its third year and there are some exciting developments to report.  The General Assembly recently ratified some changes in the North Carolina General Statutes (effective December 1, 2017) that increase the ability of citizens to obtain expunction of records.  Further, over the past year the Second Chance Project has become integrated with Thrive GSO, a community program being spearheaded by the City of Greensboro Human Relations Department that seeks to end the stigma associated with criminal records.  Between the statutory changes and the relationship with Thrive GSO, the Second Chance Project is positioned to have a large influx of pro bono clients seeking expunction assistance this year.  To that end, we will once again be offering a FREE CLE to all GBA attorneys interested in being trained on the law and process of criminal record expunction.  Because there have been significant changes in the law since the CLE program offered in October of 2015, all attorneys, even those who received the training two years ago, are encouraged to attend.  Keep an eye out for details on this CLE and we look forward to making this year the most successful year of the Second Chance Project yet!

Patrick Kane
Co-Chair, Second Chance Project

Habitat House Update

Thanks to the incredible volunteer effort put forth by GBA members, our 8th Habitat house is nearing completion. The dedication ceremony will take place on Saturday, September 16 at 11:30 a.m., 722 Prince Road in Greensboro. Please watch for an email with more information coming soon.

Contact Bill Cooke at 336-272-4514
or wocjr@bellsouth.net if you have any questions.

Camille Stell

Stell: Is Avvo a Magic Bullet for Building a 21st Century Law Practice?

NC State Bar Proposed Ethics Opinion Allows Participation

This continues to be a time of disruption and transition in the legal field. Online platforms for accessing legal services provide lawyers with marketing and administrative assistance and clients with transparency. So, what are online platforms and is it ethical for North Carolina attorneys to participate?

Following the quarterly State Bar meeting in July, North Carolina lawyers are going to get the opportunity to voice their opinion about online platforms.

In late 2016, a few members of the bar asked whether it was ethical for a lawyer to participate in an online platform for accessing legal services, in this particular case, Avvo Legal Services. Even while other state bars were declaring an ethical war with Avvo, our State Bar established a subcommittee of the Ethics Committee to study the inquiry. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say almost everyone who agreed to serve on the subcommittee was certain of their position – an opinion allowing lawyers to participate was a bad idea.

Following eight months of serious study and discussion, the subcommittee was unanimous in their decision to publish a proposed opinion that allowed lawyers to participate in such a platform. At the July 27, 2017 quarterly Ethics Committee meeting, the Ethics Committee voted to publish the opinion and seek comments from members of the bar. Look for the opinion in the upcoming issue of the State Bar Journal, as well as online at the State Bar’s website, www.ncbar.gov.

What is an Online Platform?

I typically call these online marketplaces – a website that creates a place where buyers and sellers can connect. Examples are eBay, Paypal , Airbnb and Uber. You can sell products (eBay) or provide services (Uber).

Avvo Legal Services is an online legal platform – a marketplace where attorneys and clients can meet. Avvo provides the technology that allows the lawyer to market their services for fixed-fee, limited-scope legal services. The client choses from among attorneys within the platform who have agreed to offer the services at the fixed-fee amount. When the qualifications have been met, the client pays Avvo, Avvo pays the lawyer and the lawyer pays Avvo a marketing / administrative fee.

Avvo Legal Services is separate from Avvo’s directory of lawyer profiles. Avvo was founded in 2006 as an online directory of lawyers. Avvo expanded their directory business into Avvo Legal Services in 2016. Here are some Avvo statistics:

  • Avvo receives 9 million visitors per month
  • There are 9.9 million searchable Q & A’s on the site
  • 97% of U.S. attorneys have a profile
  • Avvo has received $130+ million in funding


There are many challenges facing lawyers today: increased cost, increased competition, business development and marketing, administrative burden, outdated delivery of services, outdated practices, information overload, generational differences, changing business model and alternative legal service providers.

I believe today’s clients will drive a revolution in the delivery of legal services. Clients are empowered with information, harder to engage, want to do-it-themselves, and are more connected and have more options than ever before. Clients will demand transparency (in pricing and process), innovative problem solving and client teams that can deliver timely results at appropriate pricing.

Clients also desire an “effortless experience”. Banks provides this via ATMs available to us 24 hours, 7 days a week. Amazon provides this via online shopping 24 hours a day from the comfort of our homes with free two –day delivery.

Market Conditions

Law school debt is at an all-time high. Depending on whether you graduate from a public versus a private law school, you may be looking at $160k-$250k in debt. According to a recent US News & World Report, UNC-Chapel Hill Law School 2016 graduates had an average debt of $95k among the 75% of their students graduating with debt.

Lawyers are also unemployed and underemployed at extremely high rates. A few years ago, there was one job for every three lawyers. My law school colleagues tell me the numbers are better today. However, many lawyers are underemployed, working jobs that do not require a J.D., working contract positions and running solo practices that barely make the rent.

I talk with experienced lawyers who are struggling. Many practices have never recovered from the Great Recession, their client base is dwindling, their practice area has been hit by tort reform or new regulations. While many of these lawyers would benefit from modernizing their law practices, they don’t know how, they are afraid of ethical and malpractice risks or they are resistant to change.

Yet many young lawyers and young practices are thriving. These lawyers tend to have one thing in common, the use of technology to run very lean law practices. Many of these firms do not employ any employees, they use virtual staff, the lawyers are “do-it-yourself-ers” and they are heavy adapters of technology.

I am in front of lawyers almost daily. I talk to many lawyers who entered law school knowing the high likelihood that they would start their own firm. While they are not afraid of entrepreneurship, they do need modern ways to allow modern clients to find them. This is why in recent years the Ethics Committee has seen inquiries from lawyers asking permission to send text advertising or to offer iPads to potential clients. These are not only “new” advertising ideas to attract potential clients, but these also offer a common means of communication with clients.

Bad Apples

Some lawyers question whether online platforms are presenting an opportunity for only the bad apples to participate. This argument assumes there is some vetting process in place when people hire a lawyer in person rather than online. I think the combined experience of Lawyers Mutual and the State Bar is that there will be lawyers who make mistakes and lawyers who will behave unethically. However, that happens whether the lawyer is hired online or whether the client goes to the local lawyer across from the courthouse. In some instances, it will be easier for the online bad apple to be exposed and the client protected because of online reviews and consumer friendly reimbursement policies.


My desire is not to see online legal platforms take over consumer-based or small business- serving law practices. However, I do believe we need to level the playing field for lawyers who are trying to build 21st century practices for 21st century clients.

I believe the clients who are attracted to online platforms are ordinary people in your community who would hire their local lawyer if the lawyer would do four simple things:

  • educate potential clients about their legal needs
  • show potential clients how you can provide solutions to those needs
  • market yourself so that potential clients can find you
  • present potential clients with pricing they can understand – not necessarily discount pricing but rather transparency in pricing

Most online platforms offer these benefits to their clients. My hope is that more lawyers will design their own 21st century offices. In the meantime, I am pleased with the proposed ethics opinion and I hope you will carefully study the issue and make your voice heard to the State Bar. And please, work towards building your own 21st century law firm.

Camille Stell is the Vice President of Client Services for Lawyers Mutual. Invite Lawyers Mutual to present “Building a 21st Century Law Firm” CLE for your local bar or law firm presentation. Continue this conversation by contacting Camille Stell at 800.662.8843 or camille@lawyersmutualnc.com.

We Need You to be a Book Buddy

Do you enjoy reading and helping elementary school kids?  If so, the Young Lawyers Section hopes that you will be a Book Buddy this school year.  As GBA member Richard Hicks, a Book Buddies volunteer, said, “I have found reading to the children to be a very rewarding experience.  I suspect that I have benefited from it more than they have.”

An excited group of YLS Book Buddies at Hampton Elementary

An excited group of YLS Book Buddies at Hampton Elementary

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 a half-hour every few weeks.  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.  At the end of the school year, YLS also purchases books so that each Book Buddy can deliver a book to every kid in his or her classroom—the kids love it!

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 email Whit Pierce at whit.pierce@smithmoorelaw.com.