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2010 Emerging Legal Leaders Finalists

 Editor’s note: For the first time, North Carolina Lawyers Weekly is recognizing a select group of attorneys – all of whom have practiced for 10 years or less – for their service to the profession and their communities. Colleagues, clients, firms and friends nominated a large number for the honors, and that group has been narrowed to 30 finalists. In order to get to know them better, we asked each finalist a series of personal questions. Their answers are presented here. Judges will select the 2010 Emerging Legal Leaders winners, and we will announce them at a reception and luncheon on Tuesday, Nov. 16 at the Proximity Hotel in Greensboro. For details about the event, contact Maggy Jones at maggy.jones@nc.lawyersweekly.com or 704-377-6221.

 

 

Samuel E. Barker

Hedrick Gardner, Charlotte

 

Q: What is your favorite book, movie or TV show and why? 

A: Anything written by John Grisham or James Patterson. I do a lot of reading at work, so I like an easy read when I read leisurely. I also read a lot of political/social science books. It is kind of a cliché answer, but the Bible as well. It has certainly had the largest impact on my values and life. My favorite movie would be “Office Space,” as I love a good laugh. And my favorite TV show would probably be “Survivor” because I want to compete on that show, or in the alternative, “Seinfeld” reruns.

 

 

 

Jason Barron

K & L Gates, Raleigh

 

Q: Tell us something about yourself that others would be surprised to find out. 

 A: I once got suspended from junior high school for skipping school to go purchase a role-playing baseball game. That’s right. While other kids were skipping school to go to the beach, I was going to Greensboro (from Goldsboro, where I grew up) to purchase Pursue-the-Pennant with my older brother. I am not sure what disappointed my parents more: that we skipped school, or why we skipped school. In retrospect, that’s an easy call.

 

 

Stephen E. Coble

Coble Law Firm, Wilmington

 

Q: Name an unusual thing you would like to do before you die.

A: Before I die, I hope to have the opportunity to build a family-friendly outdoor recreation facility on land that has been in my family for four generations. The plan is to provide a covered outdoor venue where you can bring your kids to hear the music that I once enjoyed on my grandmother’s back porch.

 

 

Matthew T. Creech

Smith Moore Leatherwood, Greensboro

 

Q: Tell us something about yourself that others would be surprised to find out.

 A: My picture is on a U.S. Marshal motivational poster in the weight room of the federal courthouse in Greensboro. The poster depicts a prisoner – which is now me – lifting weights. On the last day of my clerkship, I added my picture as a joke. It hasn’t been changed, so I remain the motivational prisoner to this day.

 

 

Jill Dinerman

Katten Muchin Rosenman, Charlotte

 

Q: Tell us something about yourself that others would be surprised to find out.

A: I lived in Israel for three years. My father worked for the Army Corps of Engineers and was working on a long-term U.S. Government project building air bases in Israel. My family moved there when I was 3. I went to an Israeli nursery school and spoke fluent Hebrew.

 

 

 

Rick W. Fleming

Law Offices of James Scott Farrin, Durham

 

Q: What is your favorite book, movie or TV show and why?

A: My favorite book is Martin Heidegger’s Being and Time because it affected my perception of life and its meaning.

 

 

Jamie H. Davis

Gailor, Wallis & Hunt, Raleigh

 

Q: What is the most unusual thing on your desk or in your office, and what’s the story behind it?

A: On my desk, I have a stuffed talking badger who some folks may recognize as Grady Badger. In a tense mediation or settlement conference, I will put him in the middle of the table and press his hand so that he will dance and say, “Let’s do the deal!” My clients, as well as opposing parties and lawyers, seem to welcome Grady’s straightforward guidance.

 

 

Jeffrey M. Davis

Higgins Benjamin Eagles & Adams, Greensboro

 

Q: What is the most unusual thing on your desk or in your office, and what’s the story behind it?

A: A miniature hardhat from the Greensboro Historical Museum, which commemorates the recent renovations and re-opening of the museum. That, or the plants that have survived my inattention.

 

 

Sterling Perkinson

Kilpatrick Stockton, Raleigh

 

Q: Where are you likely to be found on the weekends or on vacation?

A: I like to start off the weekend by taking my family to breakfast and read the paper at Café Helios, then to my older daughter’s ballet class. We like to work in short visits to the N.C. Museum of Art and Roanoke Park. We also cook together. My wife and I work over the stove, and my daughters over their miniature kitchen set.

 

Adam E. Whitten

Goodman, McGuffey, Lindsey & Johnson, Charlotte

 

Q: What is the most unusual thing on your desk or in your office, and what’s the story behind it?

A: I have a small set of Brazilian flags on display in my office. When I was 19, I served a two-year church mission in Curitiba, Brazil. I’ll always have a piece of Brazil with me wherever I go.

 

David J. Neill

Smith Moore Leatherwood, Raleigh

 

Q: Tell us something about yourself that others would be surprised to find out.

 A: I won my first “case” at the age of 12 (pro se). The principal at St. Joseph’s Elementary School in Toms River, N.J., allowed me to argue and present witnesses as to why I should not be suspended from school for certain alleged misbehaviors on the school bus (including, inter alia, the throwing of water balloons from bus windows). Following deliberations by a jury of two nuns, I was exonerated and received no punishment.

 

Heather C. White

Smith Moore Leatherwood, Charlotte

 

Q: Tell us something about yourself that others would be surprised to find out.

A: My college graduation present was a one-way plane ticket to China. With a $500 travel grant from my college, I arrived in China without a job or place to live. I ended up overseeing the translation department for a media company. One of my projects was managing the translation of Boeing’s safety presentation to Chinese pilots!

 

 

 

Daniel B. Vorhaus

Robinson Bradshaw & Hinson, Charlotte

 

Q: What is your favorite book, movie or TV show and why? 

 A: It’s hard to pick just one, but I’ll nominate Last Chance to See by Douglas Adams and Mark Carwardine. Adams (who also wrote the Hitchhikers’s Guide to the Galaxy, among others) and Carwardine (a zoologist and conservationist) traveled around the world chronicling species on the brink of extinction. Their work was first published as a radio series by the BBC, and then as a book. It blends Adams’ tremendous gift for comedy with a sobering look at how we blithely destroy so much of the world around us, only to regret it much, much later. It’s a tremendous example of how science education and activism can be made accessible to the public, which is something that I think we struggle with tremendously these days.

 

 

Tobias “Toby” Samuel Hampson

Wyrick Robbins Yates and Ponton, Raleigh

 

Q: If you weren’t practicing law, what other career would you pursue?

A: Archaeology. Ever since I was a child growing up in England, I’ve been fascinated by ancient cultures and the real- life objects they left behind, which tell the story of their day-to-day lives and societies. I think that’s likely what led to career in law, which is so rooted in the history of our own culture but also derives directly from all of those ancient cultures, from Hammurabi’s Code to Judeo-Christian laws, from ancient Rome, Greece and Egypt to Anglo-Saxon Britain and any number of other influences. As lawyers, we are part of this societal fabric, which has been woven through the centuries with the ability to reach back and draw on past precedents developed over time and simultaneously create new precedents, which will be used in the future.

 

 

Brandon M. Lofton

Robinson Bradshaw & Hinson, Charlotte

 

Q: Where are you likely to be found on the weekends or on vacation?

A: On weekends, I can be found taking my sons (ages 2 and 4) to birthday parties, ImaginOn, the park, Tae Kwon Do and other places. On vacation, I am likely to be in search of the perfect family beach.

 

Dana C. Lumsden

Bradley Arant Boult Cummings, Charlotte

 

Q: What is the most unusual thing on your desk or in your office, and what’s the story behind it?

A: I use an antique thermostat from my parents’ basement in Boston as a paper weight. It’s made of ceramic and glass and helps remind me of where I’m from.

 

 

Chad Hansen

Kilpatrick Stockton, Winston-Salem

 

Q: Tell us something about yourself that others would be surprised to find out.

 A: I was for more than 10 years a jazz saxophonist (alto, tenor and baritone saxophones). Among other casual venues, I have played on street corners from Anchorage to Honolulu to New Orleans. 

 

 

Henry C. “Chip” Howes Jr.

Kilpatrick Stockton, Charlotte

 

Q: What is your favorite book, movie or TV show and why?

 A: Book – Watership Down – I never thought I would care so much about a story about rabbits, but the character development is great and I love the story.

 

 

Matthew “Matt” Nis Leerberg

Smith Moore Leatherwood, Raleigh

 

Q: Name an unusual thing you would like to do before you die.

 A: I have always wanted to take a series of part-time jobs where I could learn about other businesses. So, perhaps I could work a fast-food drive-thru window, learn how to fix errant pins at the bowling alley, take a job in home construction and wash windows on skyscrapers.

 

Helen Parsonage

Elliot Pishko Morgan, Winston-Salem

 

Q: What is the most unusual thing on your desk or in your office, and what’s the story behind it?

A: Two things: A small carved wooden bear given to me many years ago after I assisted a client get a green card for his Russian wife (I was still a paralegal then) and a model pink Cadillac convertible, that’s as close to my dream car as I seem able to get!

 

 

Stephen M. Russell Jr.

Smith Moore Leatherwood, Greensboro

 

Q: If you weren’t practicing law, what other career would you pursue?

A: I would have studied computer science if I didn’t pursue law. I’ve always been intrigued by the way technology is changing the world around us – particularly how it is breaking down social barriers, expanding access to knowledge and drastically affecting the way everyone lives, works and plays. Right now however, if I weren’t a lawyer, I would want to be known as a pitmaster.

 

Brian Pearce

Nexsen Pruet, Greensboro

 

Q: Tell us something about yourself that others would be surprised to find out.

A: As assistant sports editor of The Tiger (the Clemson student newspaper) I once got chewed out by Tommy West, the football coach at the time, in a post-game press conference for second-guessing his decision to run out the clock instead of trying to score before halftime. His exact words were, “Son, I’ve been in football a long time. Longer than you have been alive. I know what I am doing. Don’t question me.” He got fired two games later.

 

 

Samuel G. “Bo” Thompson Jr.

Yates, McLamb & Weyher, Raleigh

 

Q: Tell us something about yourself that others would be surprised to find out. 

A: Between my undergraduate and law school studies, I worked as a courier at a law firm for part of the time and taught at my high school alma mater, Broughton High School, for part of the time. My teaching experience remains a meaningful part of my life, and I enjoy seeing former students in Raleigh and in the news as they lead their own lives after high school. I appreciated the students’ enthusiasm for a new teacher and the rest of the faculty members (particularly those in my department) for guiding me through that experience.

 

Nichelle N. Levy

Robinson Bradshaw & Hinson, Charlotte

 

Q: What is the greatest goal you hope to accomplish in your life?

A: I suppose the greatest goal I hope to accomplish in my life is to always feel that I have put my talents to their best use and that I have been helpful to others. I once heard Hugh McColl say that “Happiness is when you make peace between your ability and your achievement.” I want to always be challenged to continue to improve, but also want to feel satisfied that the work I am doing when I am away from my family is contributing to positive outcomes for others.

 

Mark Nebrig

Moore & Van Allen, Charlotte

 

Q: What is the greatest passion in your life and why? 

 A: Raising two confident, respectful and open-minded children with my wife, Michelle, because that’s the best way I know to leave the world a better place than when I entered it. 

 

Jill Raspet

Smith Moore Leatherwood, Wilmington

 

Q: Tell us something about yourself that others would be surprised to find out.

 A: I am somewhat of an adrenaline junkie. I enjoy pushing myself to the limit whether it is skydiving, taking a zipline through a rainforest, whitewater rafting or taking a 12-mile day hike of the Grand Canyon.

 

Taylor Stukes

Nexsen Pruet, Charlotte

 

Q: Name an unusual thing you would like to do before you die.

 A: Dive in a submarine to the wreck of the Titanic.

 

Benton L. Toups

Hedrick Gardner, Wilmington

 

Q: Tell us something about yourself that others would be surprised to find out.

A: I grew up in Louisiana. Watch the History Channel series called “Swamp People” about alligator hunting. I’ve done that.

 

Jennifer Fox

Coats and Bennett, Cary

 

Q: What is the most unusual thing on your desk or in your office, and what’s the story behind it?

A: A replica NHL Stanley Cup. It was a gift from a Canadian law firm the year that the Carolina Hurricanes beat the Edmonton Oilers to win the Stanley Cup. I am a huge hockey fan. In 2006 I was working on a pharmaceutical litigation matter in Canada, and the managing partner of the Canadian firm that was representing my company was in Raleigh during the playoffs. The entire litigation team went to dinner on a night that there was a playoff game and I was “caught” checking the game score on my mobile phone during dinner. The rest of the night all I heard about was how great Canadian hockey was and how the U.S. doesn’t really know the game the same way that the Canadians do. After the Hurricanes beat Montreal in the first round and beat Edmonton in the finals, I politely informed the partner that Hurricanes hockey “wasn’t so bad after all.” A few weeks following the Hurricanes’ victory the replica Stanley Cup showed up in the mail with a note of congratulations.

 

William J. “Bill” McMahon IV

Constangy, Brooks & Smith, Winston-Salem

 

Q: What is the most unusual thing on your desk or in your office, and what’s the story behind it?

 A: As any Yankees baseball fan could appreciate, my wife Amy got me a very cool black and white photo of Babe Ruth shaking hands with a very young Yogi Berra. Ruth is dressed in a suit and tie with Berra in full uniform. It’s funny because we’re so used to thinking about Berra as this old, wise man with an endless supply of “Yogiisms” (e.g. “You can observe a lot by just watching”), but like all of us, Berra was once young and inexperienced. To me, the picture is a constant reminder about excellence and how excellence is passed on through mentorship. I’ve had so many great mentors in different aspects of my life, including the practice of law. I feel fortunate that I have already had the opportunity to pass on some of what I have learned, through being an adjunct professor and preparing folks for the bar exam.

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