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Author Archives: April Wilkerson

McGuireWoods adds muscle to its debt finance group

Charlotte-based law firm McGuireWoods has added four partners to its debt finance practice group, a move that allows the department to expand its services to two major clients. Attorneys Jim Hedrick, Eric Burk, David Lapp and Kent Walker have joined McGuireWoods, literally moving across the street from the office of Winston & Strawn. McGuireWoods partner Bob Cramer, chairman of the firm’s debt finance department, said their addition means a more solid presence in the loan syndication market.

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NC ranks in bottom half of judicial pay nationally

Serving in a state’s judiciary has long been a noble profession, and many lawyers relish service on the bench after years of appearing before it. But increasingly, people in the legal arena say that too little pay for judges is taking its toll. Young lawyers who once dreamed of becoming judges set that goal aside because the salary is half to two-thirds less than what they’re making in a law practice. And current judges are leaving the bench early, when they hit their first retirement benchmark or even before. That trend doesn’t bode well for the citizenry, local attorneys say.

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The eight-year itch

It took him nearly eight years to complete, but attorney William L. Esser IV of Charlotte stuck with a pro bono case that resulted in a very happy — and surprised — client. Esser serves on the pro bono committee for his firm, Parker Poe Adams & Bernstein. In 2002, he began working on a landlord-tenant referral from Legal Aid. The case required him to be part attorney, part investigator, but solidified his belief that good things happen when lawyers help those who need it the most.

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Tripped up

In 1972, when he began practicing law, Michael Kemp drove a 1972 Monte Carlo, paid 35 cents a gallon for gas and felt like king of the hill. Today, the Mount Holly attorney gets around in a Honda Accord and pays at least $3.35 a gallon for gas. The rising price of fuel has taken its toll on attorneys, particularly those who must travel to multiple courthouses, and many have adjusted their driving habits and vehicles to compensate. "We all have cars that get a lot better gas mileage than they did when I started practicing law because nobody thought about it then," Kemp said.

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Innovate, but don’t be late

If changes are made to a longtime piece of American law, a race to the patent office could be on, and North Carolina attorneys may be swept up in the pursuit. For several years, attempts at national patent reform have failed, but this year, it appears Congress has the votes to significantly change the way Americans secure patents. Under the current "first to invent" patent law, when inventors have an idea, they have the opportunity to work on it in depth, reduce it to practice, then file it with the patent office, as they know their idea is safe if they're able to prove they discovered it first. If the law changes to a "first inventor to file" system, which most of the rest of the world employs, an invention still has to meet the requirements of patentability, but the person who first files a patent application gets the patent.

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Inviting judges to the parties

Legislation that would put Democrat, Republican or Independent beside a judicial candidate's name on the ballot has evoked strong responses from people on both sides of the issue. Senate Bill 47, which would mark the return to partisan judicial races, passed the North Carolina Senate last week by a vote of 36-13. At press time for Lawyers Weekly, the bill was awaiting House action. North Carolina began switching to nonpartisan judicial elections in 1998 and completed the switch in 2004.

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