Legal Elite 2017 – Top NC Lawyers

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Since 2002, Business North Carolina magazine has honored Tar Heel lawyers by publishing Business North Carolina’s Legal Elite, a listing of the state’s top lawyers in business-related categories. Winners are chosen not by BNC editors, but by the state’s lawyers. Business North Carolina’s Legal Elite has become the model for other awards and lists, but it remains unique as the only award that gives every active lawyer in the state the opportunity to participate. Business North Carolina’s Legal Elite includes the top lawyers chosen using this statewide ballot.

Each year, BNC sends ballot notices to every member of the N.C. State Bar living in North Carolina — asking each a simple question: Of the Tar Heel lawyers whose work you have observed firsthand, whom would you rate among the current best in these categories? Voters are not allowed to vote for themselves. They may select members of their firms only if they pick out-of-firm lawyers in the same categories, with the latter votes weighted more heavily.

Visit this link to see the list for 2017: Business North Carolina‘s Legal Elite 2017.

Adoption in North Carolina

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In North Carolina, adoptions are governed by Statute. The Clerk of Superior Court handles these cases.

Any adult may adopt another person in theory, except that spouses cannot adopt each other. Any person may be adopted, including adults. The person adopted does not have to be a citizen of the United States, but if not, there can be hurdles with the federal immigration authorities. These hurdles are outside the scope of this article. The person adopted can even be an adult.

If the person adopted is not an adult, there are three types of placements with prospective parents. First, an “adoption agency” as defined by Statute may place a child for adoption. Second, a Guardian (other than a parent) appointed by law may place a child for adoption. Last, a parent having legal and physical custody, or both parents may place a child for adoption.  Agencies may place children for adoption only with prospective parents who have been pre-approved pursuant to the Statutes. Guardians and parents who place children for adoption personally select prospective adoptive parents in what is known as a “direct placement.”

The person(s) seeking to adopt must file a Petition for Adoption with the Clerk of Superior Court. Except in step-parent adoptions, a prospective parent’s spouse must join in the Petition. Notice must be given to the child in certain circumstances, the agency placing the child for adoption, the Guardian (if any), any parent whose parental rights have not been terminated and who has not given proper consent, and anyone with legal or physical custody or visitation rights with the minor child.

The Clerk must then request that a report be completed by a Statutorily authorized agency to evaluate the prospective adoptive parent, if this has not already been performed. By law, these reports may only be completed by county social services departments or licensed adoption agencies.

Unless both parents consent, parental rights of the birth parents have to be terminated before a child can be adopted. In adult adoptions, consent of the biological parents/termination of parental rights are not necessary.

In step-parent adoptions, the agency assessment can often be dispensed with and typically biological grand-parent visitation rights are not affected.

Upon a successful adoption, a new birth certificate is issued for the adopted person, showing the adopting parents’ names as parents.

Surrogacy raises considerable issues under North Carolina law. These issues are quite complex and are outside the scope of this article.

Lee Allen, III, a NC State Bar Board of Legal Specialization certified Specialist in Family Law and a NCDRC Certified Family Financial Mediator, is Of Counsel to the law firm of Colombo, Kitchin, Dunn, Ball & Porter, PLLC, where he provides advice and assistance to clients throughout eastern North Carolina.

Electronically Stored Information and Litigation

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Electronically Stored Information (“ESI”) is prevalent in today’s world. We encounter it constantly with the increased use of e-mail, text messaging, social media, blogs, etc. We use it both at home and work. It is everywhere in our personal lives, our professional lives, and on our computers, smart phones, and tablets.

In a litigation context, ESI can be particularly troubling. It can be changed, modified, or deleted more easily than traditional physical documents. It can also be accessed and copied at any time by multiple people – often without the necessity of reporting it to anyone. Such acts can expose litigants to the possibility of sanctions ranging from admonishment or reprimand to dismissal of claims or default judgment.

This is particularly frightening for employers. Therefore, it is critical for employers to be mindful of this potential minefield and implement a Records Management Policy and Retention Schedule. Adhering to these may provide a safe harbor from sanctions related to loss or destruction of ESI that may be needed during litigation.

A proper ESI policy will establish procedures to preserve, catalog, find, and produce ESI that may be relevant to a dispute. In addition, the proper system will allow for a more efficient and less expensive search for ESI.

If an employer outsources any functions, such as accounting, payroll, web hosting, etc., this will have to be considered when developing ESI policies. In addition, any other entity (customers, suppliers, etc.) with which ESI is shared must also be included in the ESI management policies.

When litigation is anticipated or commenced, a party must take reasonable steps to preserve relevant ESI. An investigation is such an event. During this time, the ESI management policy and deletion schedule must be suspended and all relevant or potentially relevant ESI must be preserved.

As soon as a party becomes aware of an investigation, claim, lawsuit, or incident that could lead to such, it should also put in place a “litigation hold.” A litigation hold is a communication to all appropriate and entitled persons to preserve relevant ESI. This communication should be in writing.

An ounce of prevention being worth much more than a pound of cure, consult with a litigation attorney to implement an ESI management policy and to implement or respond to a litigation hold.

For help with family law questions or other civil litigation issues, call Lee Allen, Attorney and Certified Family Financial Mediator, at 252-321-2020.