Petree Stockton & Robinson

From December 1986 through December 1989, I served as marketing communications counsel for Petree Stockton & Robinson, then a 95-lawyer firm with offices in Winston-Salem, Charlotte and Raleigh, NC. In addition to writing news and feature releases and pitching feature ideas to relevant publications, I developed concepts, copy and coordinated production for client development and attorney recruiting booklets.

I planned and managed media relations associated with the firm’s representation of Challenger pilot Michael Smith’s widow, Jane Smith, in her complaints against the USA and Morton Thiokol, Inc. I also managed business and trade press publicity for a $15 million jury award in the W.R. Grace case.

The Associates Recruiting Brochure

A Satisfying Career

Petree Stockton & Robinson attorney recruiting booklet cover

For approximately 70 attorneys based in Winston-Salem, Charlotte and Raleigh, North Carolina, Petree Stockton & Robinson provides an ideal setting in which to pursue a satisfying legal career that fits comfortably within the broader context of a satisfying life.

As one of only a handful of leading North Carolina firms to establish offices in all three of the state’s major metropolitan areas, Petree Stockton & Robinson is one of the region’s fastest-growing, most diverse and most sophisticated practices.

The attorneys of Petree Stockton & Robinson are committed, capable professionals who represent clients and their causes with skill and enthusiasm. At the same time, each actively and deliberately seeks, in his or her own way, to balance professional pursuits with personal and community interests.

Because of their balanced approach to the practice of law, the attorneys of Petree Stockton & Robinson are widely recognized and respected for their contributions to their profession, to their families and to their communities.

Critical to Petree Stockton & Robinson’s success has been its ability to attract and retain outstanding attorneys who subscribe to the simple philosophy that good people make good lawyers. If you are currently looking for a law firm with which to pursue a satisfying professional career as an integral part of a well-balanced life, Petree Stockton & Robinson is worthy of your consideration.

A Profession in Transition

“To have a successful law practice today,” says Ralph Stockton, “you have to observe the changing world around you carefully, evaluate your observations skillfully, and be willing and able to take decisive action before further change makes your decisions obsolete.”

According to Stockton and several of his colleagues at Petree Stockton & Robinson, changing demands in the marketplace have helped trigger recent trends toward commercialization and specialization in the profession. The firm is preparing for the future accordingly by establishing offices in the state’s primary economic, cultural and governmental centers and by developing and refining expertise in a growing number of specialized practice areas.

Market Demand

A burgeoning sunbelt economy has generated a growing need for sophisticated legal service of the scope and quality formerly available only in major metropolitan areas. According to Bob Vaughn, however, “The old days—when you had to go to New York, Washington or San Francisco to get good legal advice—are no more.”

Bill Petree echoes Vaughn’s opinion, adding that the growth of full-service firms like Petree Stockton & Robinson may be interpreted as a catalyst as well as a response to market demand.

“Our firm’s growth has always been driven by need in the marketplace,” says Petree, “but the availability of high-quality legal service naturally stimulates further economic growth which, in turn, creates even greater need.”

To provide legal service of the quality and quantity currently in demand, Petree Stockton has, in recent years, accelerated growth in a number of specialized areas of practice. At the same time, the firm has strengthened its position as a regional firm by expanding beyond Winston-Salem to establish offices in Charlotte and Raleigh.

“We’re always looking for better ways to serve our clients at the level of specialization, sophistication and speed they require,” says Lynwood Mallard. “As long as the demand keeps growing and changing, so will the firm.”

Maintaining Professionalism

With the increasing size of firms like Petree Stockton has come an increase in the commercialization of the practice of law, a development viewed with concern by Ralph Stockton, who joined the firm in 1952.

“I see an inevitable trend toward making a business out of the professions,” notes Stockton. “But as long as we keep service to our clients primary—as long as we don’t lose track of that—we should be able to counteract any negative effects.”

“We do, in many respects, run our firm like a business,” adds Bill Petree, “and that brings with it many important benefits. But no matter how big or business-oriented we get, we intend to keep our emphasis on the individual. We want no part of the sweatshop atmosphere that has developed in some firms.”

“Our profession is succumbing to the pressure of the business ethic,” agrees Ray Farris, “but we believe that by supporting and promoting community involvement among our attorneys, we can keep from getting too caught up in the trend.

“Historically, we’ve been among the most generous contributors to the community,” adds Farris. “Our attorneys are involved in leadership roles in virtually every type of professional, civic, business, church and social organization simply because we believe there’s no group of people better qualified or with more of a commitment to serve the community than lawyers.”

Specialization

Bill Maready, a specialist in aviation and product liability law, notes an accelerating trend in the profession toward specialization, adding that while increased specialization has greatly improved the quality of legal service to clients, attorneys must make deliberate efforts to maintain a broad perspective.

“By developing specialties in highly complex areas of law, such as securities, mergers and acquisitions, banking, antitrust, taxation, environmental, and product liability law, we can offer services of exceptional quality, efficiency and effectiveness,” he notes.

“Then, by involving new associates in various areas of practice, having regular meetings to discuss our activities, and by taking a team approach to cases requiring knowledge in several areas of law, the firm gives each attorney a chance to see how each specialized area fits into the general application of law to society.”

The Future

The attorneys of Petree Stockton & Robinson look to the firm’s future with optimism. “We’re on the verge of an explosion,” says Ralph Stockton. “We have top-notch lawyers in all our areas of practice, and by virtue of our clients and the work we do for them, our continued success is inevitable.”

“We’ll continue expanding to better serve the region,” says Bob Vaughn, “but we won’t forget the things that have always made us special.

“One, we have very good, very able lawyers now, and we’ll continue to be selective in recruiting new associates. Two, we’ll continue to be a full-service firm. Three, we’ll make a concerted effort to maintain our collegial atmosphere as we grow. And four, we’ll continue to encourage our people to involve themselves in civic and professional activities.

“I consider those four factors our formula for the success we’ve experienced over the years,” adds Vaughn, “and I believe by continuing to emphasize them, we can look forward to a bright future for the firm.”

The Challenge of Success

In September 1982, when Rich Keshian joined Petree Stockton & Robinson, some of his friends from Vanderbilt were skeptical.

“They knew I could have gone to firms in New York, Texas or Atlanta,” says Keshian, “but I had made a conscious decision to practice law where I could achieve a balance in my personal and professional life.

“Now I see my friends who are practicing in big cities commuting two or three hours a day. And some of them still haven’t seen the inside of a courtroom. Since I’ve been in the litigation section, I’ve participated in all kinds of court proceedings and have already had the opportunity to try a number of cases on my own.”

“There were lots of guys on the board of editors, and all they ever talked about was Wall Street or Atlanta,” recalls Neil Robinson, a 1983 University of North Carolina School of Law graduate who clerked in Dallas and Houston before establishing his practice in Charlotte. “I decided to go with a firm that I felt would offer the kind of professional and personal opportunities I was looking for—direct contact with outstanding senior partners, interesting and important clients and cases, a comfortable working atmosphere, a chance for advancement, and a nice community to live in.”

Challenge

“Most third-year students expect to spend at least the first few months of their careers toiling in the library,” according to Mike Robinson, a University of North Carolina School of Law graduate who joined Petree Stockton & Robinson in 1980 and is scheduled to become a partner in January 1987.

“But at Petree Stockton & Robinson, new associates get involved in all aspects of cases from the beginning. Here, you’re expected to learn as you go, under the supervision of an experienced attorney.”

“I’ve had as much responsibility as I wanted to take from the beginning,” adds Keshian. “You’re allowed to go at your own speed. You can take a case and run with it as soon as you’re ready.”

Flexibility

“We encourage new people to get exposure to a variety of different areas of practice during their early years,” says Jane Jackson, who joined the firm in 1983 after her graduation from the University of Virginia School of Law. “Getting that hands-on experience with specialties ranging from products liability to arson to commercial law to executive compensation makes it easier to make an intelligent choice of the ultimate direction you want your career to take.”

“When I first joined the firm, I was interested in real estate as a specialty,” says Keshian. “But during the early months of practicing here—as I worked on projects outside my area of interest, I decided I was more interested in litigation. Since the firm is concerned with your professional development as much as with meeting the needs of the firm, the flexibility is there to change your career focus.”

Opportunity

“My first day here, I came in talking about my long-range career goals,” says Phil Banks, a Howard University School of Law graduate who joined the firm in 1983. “For example, I have a background and interest in developing a specialty in mass communications law. No one has ever discouraged me from pursuing that goal. In fact, if questions come up in that area, the other attorneys in the firm refer them to me because they know I’m interested.”

“The firm is growing aggressively right now,” says Joyce Wheeler, a 1980 graduate from the Bates College of Law at the University of Houston. “And that growth means the potential is certainly there for advancement. It makes for a good atmosphere to work in, too. There’s no backbiting or jockeying for position. Everyone is very congenial.”

A Place to Build a Career

“At Petree Stockton & Robinson, you get to do meaningful work from the very beginning, you’re allowed some flexibility in terms of your practice, and the opportunities for advancement are available if you’re willing to take advantage of them,” says Banks.

“Those factors, combined with the emphasis on being a complete, balanced individual, the atmosphere of mutual trust and respect, and the quality of life in the community make Petree Stockton & Robinson the ideal place to build a successful career. The opportunities are virtually limitless.”

Summer Associates Program Introduces Firm to Students

Each year, Petree Stockton & Robinson’s Summer Associates Program attracts outstanding law students from the nation’s top law schools, offering them an opportunity to gain hands-on experience in the practice of law.

For both the student and the firm, the summer program is a valuable recruiting tool as well. In fact, since it began in 1969, about half the partners and associates who’ve joined the firm participated in the program as students.

“The Summer Associates Program is designed to show the summer associate the full range of our practice,” says John Barber who, with Joe Treacy, David Hamilton and John Mitchell, coordinates the program.

According to Treacy, the Summer Associates Program has two primary objectives. “As a recruiting tool, the program allows the associate and the firm to become acquainted so both of us can make long-term employment decisions based on six to twelve weeks of working together rather than on a series of 15 or 20 minute interviews.

“Our second objective is to fulfill our responsibility to the bar by giving law students a paid internship program that offers an opportunity to participate in the day-to-day practice of law and to work on challenging assignments that supplement the legal education that takes place in the classroom.”

The Program

“The Summer Associates Program is fairly flexible,” says Hamilton, “but there’s enough structure to assure that everyone involved gets the same quality of experience.”

The 13 to 15 program participants ordinarily spend six weeks working in business and real estate and six weeks in litigation, with their work coordinated by a partner from each area.

“If summer associates can work with us the full 12 weeks, the experience they get is better-rounded,” adds Treacy. “It also makes it easier for them to make up their minds about what kind of practice they’re most interested in.”

“Many of our summer associates want to split the summer between two firms,” adds Barber. “We’re happy to work with them for six rather than the full twelve weeks.”

While summer associates attend several planned social functions to help them get acquainted with the firm’s attorneys, they concentrate primarily on gaining a broad range of experiences in practicing law.

“On the business side, a summer associate might sit in on an initial conference, draft a will, or sit in on a commercial or residential real estate closing or a meeting with an IRS agent,” John Mitchell explains. “On the litigation side, a summer associate might be asked to sit in on an initial interview with a client, dictate a memo to summarize the meeting and draft the first set of interrogatories and discovery materials. We try to get as many summer associates as possible to at least one trial, too.”

An Emphasis on Feedback

“In assigning projects, the coordinating partner tries to give each summer associate exposure to as many different areas of practice and attorneys as possible,” notes Treacy. “We emphasize feedback. If an attorney requests help from a summer associate, part of the contract is that the attorney takes on the responsibility for giving a full critique of the work.”

“I went through the summer program in 1984 and found it extremely helpful in making responsible and informed choices about life after law school,” says Steve Pharr, a graduate of the University of Virginia School of Law. “It gave me the opportunity to try many areas of practice, and to get to know the attorneys in the firm and learn why they chose to live and work in Winston-Salem. Their reasons seemed to resonate with my goals, so I was very pleased to accept the job offer on the spot at the end of the summer.

“Most of my classmates went to the five or six biggest metropolitan areas,” adds Pharr. “Their reasons varied, but for some, it was little more than the glitzy appeal of skyscrapers. That’s their choice, but I think there’s a general misapprehension of what goes on here. We’re regional counsel for a number of major corporations, and at the same time, we’ve kept some of the small-firm practice. It’s the best of both worlds.”

Eileen McDermott Taylor spent the summer after her second year at Notre Dame as a summer associate and then accepted an associate position upon graduation. “I think you can be at something of a disadvantage if, after your second-year clerkship, you still haven’t found what you’re looking for,” says Taylor. “But from my very first day as a summer associate, I knew Petree Stockton was the place I wanted to work.”

“One thing I especially like about the Petree Stockton program is it gets you out with the associates,” says Stephen Johnson, a University of Virginia School of Law graduate who was a summer associate before joining the firm. “In law school, you learn to do research, so from the law firm’s perspective, clerks can be most productive stuck in the back of the library. But at Petree Stockton, clerks get to work on some of the fun things and they get to observe the attorneys in action.”

‘Actively Soliciting Students’ Resumes’

“We’re actively soliciting resumes from students in law schools all across the country,” says Treacy. “We also conduct on-campus interviews at UNC, Wake Forest, Vanderbilt, Harvard, Columbia, the University of Virginia and Duke and send people to the Southeastern Consortium, which represents 11 southeastern law schools.”

Since Petree Stockton recruits heavily from among its summer program participants, the firm looks for virtually the same qualities in them as it does in its regular associates. “We try to use the same criteria in picking summer associates as we do for regular associate positions—academic background, personality and the desire to do a good job for clients,” says Hamilton. “Then, we get them in and involve them pretty much as we would an entry-level associate.”

“There are plenty of summer programs at law firms with good lawyers, good clients and sophisticated work,” Barber adds. “At Petree Stockton, besides having those things, we have a relaxed, informal atmosphere and very pleasant working relationships. That’s what sets our program apart.”

An Opportunity to Live the Kind of Life We Wanted

When Bill Wright chose to join Petree Stockton & Robinson instead of a prominent Boston law firm where he’d clerked after his second year at Duke, more than a few classmates and even a couple of professors told him, “You’re out of your mind to choose Winston-Salem over Boston.”

But Wright was convinced “that North Carolina in general and Petree Stockton in particular offered my wife and three children and me the best opportunity to live the kind of life we wanted.

“And we were right,” he adds. “We’ve found Winston-Salem offers precisely the combination of cultural, recreational, social and professional opportunities we were looking for. We love it here.”

‘Minutes From Work’

After earning his law degree at the University of North Carolina, Tim Ehlinger returned to his native New York City to work in the tax department of a large accounting firm while pursuing a master’s degree in taxation at New York University.

“I was burning out real fast,” says Ehlinger. “Within less than a year of commuting two hours each way from Long Island, I realized there was no way I could stay unless I was going to live in the city. But that wasn’t the lifestyle I wanted. To get that, I’d still have to commute from Long Island, New Jersey or Connecticut.

“Winston-Salem has just about everything you’d want to do in a city without the problems of commuting,” says Ehlinger. “You can live in a nice neighborhood here and still be only a few minutes from work.”

`Plenty to Do and See’

“Winston-Salem has so much to offer, particularly in terms of cultural opportunities,” says George Little, a Winston-Salem native who joined the firm in 1971 after his graduation from the University of North Carolina School of Law in 1967. “Besides having our own symphony, we have Piedmont Opera Theatre and the North Carolina Dance Theatre, the North Carolina School of the Arts, the Little Theatre, Piedmont Craftsmen, the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art and the Sawtooth Center for Visual Design—all based right here in Winston-Salem. Of course, we also have our share of outstanding recreational and social opportunities, too. I know it sounds like a cliché, but there truly is something for everybody here.”

“There’s plenty to do and see in Charlotte, and lots of new professional people coming in,” says Neil Robinson, a North Carolina native who clerked in Dallas and Houston before establishing his practice in Charlotte. “You can find preppy, disco, beach, country-western— any kind of club you like—plus good jazz bands and comedy clubs. There are all sorts of cultural events and organizations. And you can be involved in just about any kind of sport you’re interested in.”

“As the center of state government and the home of NC State, Raleigh has, in the past, been associated with government and the university,” says Fred Hutchison, a 1975 University of Virginia School of Law graduate who joined Petree Stockton & Robinson’s Raleigh office in 1986. “But in the past few years, the whole Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area has also become one of the fastest-growing areas in the state for new business. As you might expect, it’s a very exciting, very satisfying place to live and work.”

‘Easy to Meet People and Get Involved’

Rod Enns grew up in Seattle, moved east for a while and then spent four years practicing law in Denver before joining Petree Stockton. “My wife and I became dissatisfied with Denver,” says Enns. “Even after four years there, we didn’t feel at home.”

Enns and his wife took a map of the continental United States and after disqualifying the northern states because of climate and the southwest “because there are no trees,” they decided to take a driving tour through the mid-Atlantic states. “We narrowed it down to Winston-Salem, Greensboro, Norfolk and Charleston,” says Enns. “We chose Winston-Salem because of professional opportunities and community attributes.

“It’s easy to meet people here and to get involved,” he adds. “You don’t have to be a hometown boy to fit in. I can say without exaggerating, that I’m more at home here after a year than we were after four years in Denver.

“There’s also the belief in the business community that you can be honest, friendly, compassionate and sincere and still be successful,” says Enns. “People assume you’re acting in good faith. That makes the practice more pleasant.”

‘The Practice is Just as Sophisticated’

Pete Brunstetter spent his childhood in the San Francisco Bay area, New Orleans and Charlottesville, Virginia. After earning his law degree at the University of Virginia, he joined a large Richmond-based firm, but found he soon tired of “having to take 50 minutes out of my life twice a day to get to and from work.

“I thought I’d have to sacrifice something professionally to get the lifestyle,” says Brunstetter, “but at Petree Stockton & Robinson, I’ve found the practice is just as sophisticated as the practice in Richmond. And the opportunities are probably better.”

`The Importance of Being Well-Rounded’

North Carolina native Joyce Wheeler practiced a year and a half in Houston alongside approximately 150 other attorneys and then worked for a time with a 50-lawyer firm in Riverside, California. In September 1985, she and her husband moved back to North Carolina. She works in the firm’s Charlotte office.

“Petree Stockton is growing and progressive,” says Wheeler, “and our professional standards are exceptionally high. But there’s also a recognition of the importance of balancing the demands of a challenging law practice with the demands of family and community involvement—of being a well-rounded person.”

‘The Economic Growth Has Been Dramatic’

Meg Goldstein grew up in Charlotte, attended law school at the University of North Carolina, and earned a master’s degree in taxation from New York University. Before returning to Charlotte to practice, she worked in an 86-attorney firm based in Atlanta.

“Within my first year as an associate here, I had clients handed over to me,” says Goldstein. “All the time I was in Atlanta, I didn’t speak to one client.

“There seems to be a growing awareness in Charlotte of what we have to do to compete,” she adds. “The economic growth has been dramatic, and it’s still in its infant stages.”

‘A Wholeness to Life’

Jim Dockery practiced three years on Wall Street before returning to his native North Carolina in 1963 to practice at Petree Stockton. “I like backpacking, trout fishing and wild flower photography,” says Dockery, “and North Carolina is the ideal place to pursue those interests.

“It seems to me, if you’re going to be an effective professional, you should also act on values that are important to you, even if they’re not directly related to your career,” adds Dockery. “In fact, it brings a wholeness to your life and to the law firm that’s extremely beneficial.”

Professional Support

As one of the first law firms in the region to hire a full-time business executive, Petree Stockton & Robinson is known for its progressive approach to providing high-quality administrative support for its attorneys. But when new staffers sign on as legal secretaries, clerk typists or word processing operators, they’re hired to work for the firm’s clients, not its attorneys.

“As a rule, law firms have not encouraged the attitude of working with rather than for the attorneys,” says Personnel Coordinator Sue Williams, who recruits employees to fill the firm’s more than 100 staff positions and coordinates the support staff’s work flow.

“Here, our emphasis is on serving the client. It helps our support staff to feel a part of the firm’s growth and success. It also helps create an atmosphere in which to build careers.”

Consider Petree Stockton & Robinson

Of the many decisions you will make as you pursue your career as a lawyer, your choice of law firms clearly ranks among the more momentous. In an effort to provide you the information you need to make your choice an informed one, Petree Stockton & Robinson invites you to schedule a visit to any of the firm’s office locations in Winston-Salem, Charlotte and Raleigh. For more information, contact:

Recruiting Coordinator
Petree Stockton & Robinson


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