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NCLW Leaders in the Law: Keith Burns, Managing Partner, Nexsen Pruet 

Teri Saylor//May 30, 2023

NCLW Leaders in the Law: Keith Burns, Managing Partner, Nexsen Pruet 

Teri Saylor//May 30, 2023

Keith Burns, Managing Partner, Nexsen Pruet 


For many, the act of helping out a friend can offer a rare satisfaction and change of perspective.  

For Keith Burns, it changed his career.  

Burns began as a commercial litigator, but shifted his focus after a friend asked him to represent him in the acquisition of a business. 

“Through that experience, I found I like transactional work, and my practice began evolving to what it is today,” he says.


Burns is now managing partner at Nexsen Pruet in Raleigh, focusing on representing developers in all real estate asset classes, commercial real estate and business lenders, and parties to public-private partnerships. 

He received his bachelor’s from UNC-Chapel Hill and his law degree from Wake Forest University School of Law, where he received the Robert Goldberg Award for Trial Advocacy, was the National Trial Competition southeastern regional winner for two years, and, in 1992, made it to the National Trial Competition final four. 

Growing up: I grew up in Laurinburg, N.C. My childhood gave me many good memories and a sense of accomplishment after summiting a 12,444-ft. peak at Philmont Scout Ranch. My first experience above the tree line, and my first views from that height stand out.   

Biggest personal accomplishment: Creating a life with my family that has allowed me to focus on my marriage and kids, pursue a career in law, and pursue charitable activities. My wife and I are celebrating 33 years of marriage and counting, our children are pursuing the work they’ve chosen, I work at a law firm that allows me to do interesting work for clients I enjoy, and I have had the opportunity to contribute to nonprofits that serve the community. 

First job: Growing up in a small eastern North Carolina town, I learned the importance of doing a job well, especially when others are counting on me, and the humility to complete whatever work is required. My first job was some combination of painting a stockyard fence, cleaning hog houses, and raking hay.    

Advice for aspiring attorneys: If you’re considering a career in law, know that the field is broad and filled with different practice areas. Additionally, there are many opportunities to use a law degree that don’t involve the practice of law, all with some ability to change from one to the other. Pursue your interests, even as your interests change.  

Work-life balance: Find a supportive spouse, which is to say I don’t balance well and I don’t have any meaningful tips. 

Childhood goal: At 8 I was convinced I wanted to be a chemical engineer, so I could make explosives. What 8-year-old boy doesn’t love explosions?  

Favorite vacation spot: Ocean Isle Beach, N.C. and DeBordieu, S.C. are frequent vacation spots. 

A month off: Community service has been important from my childhood, through my time as a Peace Corps volunteer in the Philippines and continuing today. I might invest the month in community service. There’s also a chance I’d be more self-indulgent with a cooking course in Lèon or intensive golf instruction.   

You didn’t know: My wife was my date to my high school senior prom, and I’m an instrument rated airplane pilot. 

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