NCAJ NEXT Leadership Program

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The 2022 NCAJ NEXT Cohort

Santiago Arroba

Santiago Arroba

Attorney Santiago Arroba brings a unique perspective to the Whitley Law Firm. Born in Venezuela, but raised in Wilson, North Carolina, Santiago is able torelate and connect to people of all backgrounds. He decided to put these skills to use as an attorney to help the people of our state fight for their rights against corporations and insurance companies. Focusing on both personal injury and worker’s compensation, Santiago will endeavor to ensure that your case is handled effectively and efficiently so that you are able to focus on recuperating. Additionally, he demands that his clients be treated fairly by their employers when they are injured.

Santiago believes that getting to know every client individually, and not just as a number, is what the Whitley Law Firm is all about. This is crucial to being able to tell a client’s story, whether it be to a jury or an insurance adjuster, and so he makes it a point to connect with each and every client that walks into his office. Through thorough preparation and a meticulous attention to detail, in combination with an excellent team of case managers and paralegals, Santiago will fight for the compensation that youdeserve.Santiago earned his BA in Ancient History and Creative Writing at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and attended Campbell University School of Law in downtown Raleigh.In his spare time, Santiago enjoys cooking, going to concerts, watching soccer and rooting for the Tar Heels.

Helen Baddour

Helen Baddour

Helen is a personal injury lawyer, advocating for people who have been wrongfully injured, with a special interest in representing victims of bicycle crashes. Helen grew up in Goldsboro, North Carolina. She sharpened her writing and public speaking skills in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. These skills, combined with her desire to advocate for others, led Helen to law school at North Carolina Central University School of Law where served as Editor-in-Chief of the 2013-2014 North Carolina Central Law Review

Helen was selected to the North Carolina Rising Stars list, published in Super Lawyers® Magazine, for 2020 and 2021. Each year, no more than 2.5 percent of lawyers in NC are selected by the research team at Super Lawyers® to receive this honor.

Helen is an active member of the North Carolina Advocates for Justice. She currently serves as past chair of the Women’s Caucus and co-legislative chair of the Auto Torts and Premises Liability Section. Helen also serves as co-diversity and inclusion chair of the North Carolina Bar Association Litigation Section.

An avid long distance runner, Helen has run a number of marathons and half marathons, including the Boston and the Chicago Marathons. Helen also enjoys writing her blog, Chasing Helen, a platform to motivate, educate and encourage others about running, fitness and overall well-being.

Matthew Berthold

Matthew Berthold

Matthew has been a trial attorney since 2013 when he began practicing at his father’s firm in his hometown of Charleston, West Virginia. Growing up around the legal practice, Matthew was ingrained with the struggle that families suffering catastrophic injuries or deaths had to endure every day, and raised with the empathy and passion to relentlessly fight to obtain justice on behalf of the people.

Now with Brown, Moore & Associates, PLLC, Matthew concentrates his practice on all forms of medical malpractice, wrongful death, physician and medical staff sexual misconduct, birth injuries, traumaticbrain injuries, catastrophic personal injuries, and mass litigation.

Matthew continues to represent victims and their families throughout all of North Carolina, litigating cases both large and small. He is passionate about fighting for every client, no matter the size of the case, to ensure that they are treated fairly, with respect, and to obtain the best possible outcome. Matthew is a firm believer that all catastrophic injury victims deserve the highest quality legal representation. Through hard work and thoughtful representation, Matthew provides his clients with a legal experience without the stress and worry that many litigants face, while still achieving the results his clients deserve.

During his time as a trial attorney, Matthew has advocated as lead attorney in successfully litigating cases to jury verdict, through arbitration, as well as obtaining over $30 million dollars in settlements for his clients. Matthew also had the honor of serving as co-lead and/or liaison counsel in Mass Litigation cases before the West Virginia Mass Litigation Panel.

Prior to practicing law, Matthew completed his undergraduate education at the University of Kentucky and went on to work in the NBA for the Los Angeles Clippers. During his time in the Clippers Communications Department, Matthew worked closely with the Clippers Vice President of Communications, as well as the Los Angeles media, on a variety of team and media relations and publications. After working in Los Angeles, Matthew went on to the West Virginia University College of Law where he received his Juris Doctorate degree. Outside of his practice of law, Matthew is a proud husband and father, residing in Charlotte with his wife, son, and their dog.

Matthew Bissette

Matthew Bissette

Associate attorney Matthew Bissette knew at an early age that he wanted to enter a profession where he could help injured or sick people, some down on their luck, every day that he walked into the office. He grew up helping his dad, a family medicine doctor, every Wednesday night at a free medical clinic put on for some of his hometown’s most needy. That’s why he went to law school and he brings that background with him each day that he works for his clients as a lawyer.

Matthew does not want insurance companies to take advantage of people who may not understand their rights when they have been hurt in some way by no fault of their own. Matthew works hard to ensure that insurance companies give to these harmed individuals the compensation that they deserve.Matthew believes that intense work and focus combined with critical legal analysis can allow him to bring strong results for injured people.

Drew Culler

Drew Culler

Drew Culler is dedicated to serving injured workers and residents across North Carolina. Drew understands that the legal system can be overwhelming, especially during an injury. He works closely with his clients and strives to provide the best service possible.

Drew strives to serve those in difficult times. As a child, Drew’s mother worked at a district attorney’s office and often took Drew to work with her.There, Drew learned how important it was to advocate for those who are injured and underserved. Drew continued his call to service after college, working at the Key West District Attorney’s Office, where he was a victim advocate. Drew took pride in helping victims of violent crime navigate the justice system.

Drew graduated from Wake Forest University School of Law, where his law school trial team bested competing teams from law schools across the country to win the American Association for Justice National Trial Championship. During law school, Drew also served as the Executive Editor of Wake Forest’s Journal of Law and Policy and was awarded the Moot Court Service Award for his commitment to legal advocacy.

Drew is an active member of the North Carolina Advocates for Justice, serving on the executive committee of the Auto Torts and Premises Liability Section, as well as the New Lawyers’ Division.

When he is not advocating for his clients, Drew enjoys spending time with his two spaniels, Lily and Finnigan and picking up a good book. He is looking forward to spending a few weeks in Spain for his upcoming honeymoon.

Spencer Fritts

Spencer Fritts

Spencer S. Fritts joined Oxendine Barnes & Associates PLLC in August 2020 after a two-year stint as a judicial law clerk at the North Carolina Court of Appeals. During his time at the Court of Appeals, he had the privilege of clerking for three separate judges on the Court –Judges Ann Marie Calabria, Tobias S. Hampson, and John M. Tyson. Spencer’s clerkship experience provides him with a unique insight and perspective that he utilizes to his clients’ advantage when assessing and analyzing their individual facts and claims. Spencer is also an active member of the North Carolina Bar Association, where he co-chaired a committee within the Young Lawyers Division, and was recognized twice as the Young Lawyer of the Quarter in the 2019-2020 bar year.

Spencer earned his Juris Doctor, cum laude, from Campbell Law School. During law school, he was the symposium editor of theCampbell Law Review and a student representative for the North Carolina Bar Association. Spencer was published in the Campbell Law Review as a student for his note on the intersection of administrative law and an employer’s right to their tips, which was subsequently cited with approval in a petition for writ of certiorari to the United States Supreme Court. He also completed externships with the North Carolina Court of Appeals and the Raleigh City Attorney’s Office, as well as serving as a research assistant for three different law school professors.

Spencer earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in political science from the University of South Carolina Honors College. Outside of the office, he enjoys spending time on his boat, playing golf, and following the Gamecocks.

Gagan Gupta

Gagan Gupta

Gagan Gupta leads Paynter Law’s insurance disputes division. Presently, he is helping businesses navigate their insurance policies to secure coverage due to COVID-related business losses. Prior to joining Paynter Law, Gagan graduated from Stanford Law School and then clerked for the Honorable Pierre N. Leval of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in Manhattan. Thereafter, he joined a large national law firm where he handled litigation on behalf of Fortune 500 clients with a focus on technology disputes and federal appeals. His most notable case was a $1 billion jury trial in Silicon Valley which resulted in a favorable settlement for his client during the middle of trial. Gagan’s lead insurance case –captioned North State Deli, LLC et al. v. The Cincinnati Insurance Company, et al., No. 20-cvs-02569 (Durham County, North Carolina) –was the first among thousands across the nation to achieve a summary judgment ruling in favor of policyholders. This landmark victory was a powerful win for policyholders during an era of economic devastation for small businesses everywhere.

Gagan grew up in Belmont, NC and went on to receive his undergraduate degree in political science from Davidson College, where he received a full merit scholarship. Prior to law school, Gagan received a masters degree in economics from The London School of Economics and served as White House political appointee in President Obama’s administration.

Gagan is committed to civil causes and social justice and spent his first year after college in New Orleans assisting with the disaster recovery effort following Hurricane Katrina.

Madeline Hurley

Madeline Hurley

Originally from Rougemont, North Carolina, Madeline is a proud graduate of Appalachian State University. She went on to attend Campbell University School of Law where she was awarded a merit scholarship and served on the Campbell Law Pro Bono Council. During law school, Madeline was an extern for North Carolina Supreme Court Justice Paul Newby and Senator Jim Davis.

Madeline devotes her practice to family law litigation and negotiation including issues related to divorce, property distribution, spousal agreements, child custody, child support, and domestic violence. Madeline appreciates that going through a divorce or separation can be challenging and she is committed to helping her clients navigate the process. Madeline is a strong advocate for her clients, passionate about protecting their rights, their family, and their financial stability.

Madeline is member of the Wake County Bar Association, North Carolina Advocates for Justice, and the North Carolina Bar Association where she serves on the NorthCarolina Bar Association’s Task Force on Integration, Equity, and Equal Justice.

Madeline was selected to the 2020 and 2021 Super Lawyers Rising Stars Lists. Only 2.5% of Lawyers in the state receive the honor of being named a Rising Star. While Madeline appreciates recognition from her peers, her greatest satisfaction comes from successfully resolving her clients’ disputes and knowing that she has assisted them in overcoming personal challenges.

In addition to her legal activities, Madeline serves as a member of the Board of Directors for East Wake Education Foundation. Madeline is also an active member of the Junior League of Raleigh and serves as a chapter advisor to Kappa Delta Sorority at North Carolina State University.

Xavier Lightfoot

Xavier Lightfoot

Xavier’s practice primarily focuses on labor and employment law, serious personal injury and wrongful death, and civil litigation.

As a member of Ward and Smith’s Labor and Employment Practice Group, he regularly advises employers on a wide range of labor and employment law issues, including personnel policies and handbooks, employment discrimination and harassment, employee discipline and termination, drug and alcohol testing, and various wage and hour matters.He has also conducted training presentations and webinars for employers on various COVID-19 employment topics such as workforce reduction, ADA compliance, emergency paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave requirements under the FFCRA, best practices and strategies for employers to return workers to the workplace, and preparation of liability waivers.

In addition, Xavier has experience litigating claims for serious personal injury, including cases involving vehicle accidents, professional malpractice, and premises liability, among other areas.He also represents both corporate and individual clients in a broad range of civil litigation before state and federal courts.

Courtney Mann

Courtney Mann

Courtney earned her Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Central Florida and earned her Juris Doctor from Charlotte School of Law. As a Floridian who moved north, Courtney enjoys the views of the North Carolina mountains, but also needs the sand of the beach. Courtney met her husband in college at UCF, and truly enjoys spending time with him and their two rescue dogs, and they take every opportunity to travel around the world and experience new cultures. Currently, their favorite travel destinations are Spain, England, and South Korea.

Courtney is a member of the North Carolina State Bar, the Mecklenburg County Bar Association, and the North Carolina Advocates for Justice. She has served on many committees with the Mecklenburg County Bar Association and is currently the Chair-Elect of the Law Day Committee. Courtney also spends time teaching Continuing Learning Education courses on liens and subrogation rights with the NCAJ, NBI, and other CLE dedicated companies. She was recently selected to the Super Lawyers North Carolina Rising Star list for 2022, which only 2.5% of attorneys in the state receive such an honor.

Blake Marcus

Blake Marcus

Blake is originally from South Florida, but fell in love with the mountains of Western Carolina. Blake lives in Asheville with his lovely wife, two young children, and three crazy cats.

Education:

Florida State University -(2006-2010) Bachelors in Accounting and Finance (magna cum laude)
Michigan State University College of Law -(2011-2014) (magna cum laude)

Jacob Morse

Jacob Morse

Jacob Morse began practicing law in 2017 at a large regional firm (Wyrick Robbins Yates & Ponton LLP) where he focused on commercial litigation. In 2020, he transitioned to a new role as plaintiff’s lawyer at Miller Law Group, PLLC, concentrating on personal injury work, including wrongful death, catastrophic and workplace injury, and auto torts.

Jacob believes there is something special about taking up the task of fighting for the wronged or harmed. Oftentimes, corporations and wrongdoers get away with (or even profit from) bad conduct across industries and in communities where others pay the price for those actions.  Unless someone stands up and holds the wrongdoer accountable, the conduct will be rewarded and repeated at significant cost to others.

As a law student, Jacob took an elective course titled Complex Litigation taught by Milberg’s co-founder Dan Bryson. Jacob quickly became interested in the work of Dan and his colleagues as they pursued interesting and complex cases across the country. He became close friends of members of the firm’s Raleigh office and stayed in touch with their cases, the causes they champion, and things they do in the community. When they reached out to ask if Jacob was interested in joining the firm, the answer was yes.

Jacob continues to fight for justice, standing with those who are wronged or harmed by big corporations. However, when he’s not in the office, he continues to give back to legal community by coaching Campbell Law School’s Mock Trial teams. He prides himself in having coached one regional and two national championship-winning teams (including the AAJ 2019 national champtionship in Philadelphia, Pennsylvannia).

Outside all things law, Jacob loves taking in concerts and shows. An avid beach goer, he loves the sand and sea most in the winter. If he’s not catching a concert or enjoying the beach, you can find him cooking and dining (mooching off his friend’s Green Egg when he can).

Patrick Wallace

Patrick Wallace

Pat Wallace is an attorney in Milberg’s Raleigh office. His nationwide practice focuses on fighting for individuals in complex and class action litigation, including false advertising, consumer protection, and product liability.

Pat attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign where he received his B.A. in Philosophy. During his time as an undergraduate, he was an active member of the Navigators, an international, interdenominational Christian ministry, and was an active leader at his local church’s youth group. After his undergraduate studies, Pat earned his law degree from Wake Forest University School of Law.While at Wake Forest, he was a member of Moot Court, a regional finalist for the 2013 American Association for Justice (AAJ) Trial Advocacy Competition, and a semi-finalist for the 2014 AAJ Trial Advocacy Competition.In addition, Pat was a part of Wake Forest’s Appellate Advocacy Clinic, where he briefed and argued a case before the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, and helped prepare an argument before the United States Supreme Court. At graduation, Pat was informed he was nominated by the law school faculty for induction into the Order of Barristers, which recognized his exceptional skills in trial advocacy, oral advocacy, and brief writing.

While in law school, Pat also worked as a law clerk for the Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance Foundation and for the North Carolina Department of Justice. Upon graduating from Wake Forest, he worked as a judicial law clerk to the Honorable Catharine R. Aron, Chief Judge of the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Middle District of North Carolina. Patrick joined Whitfield Bryson LLP, the predecessor firm of Milberg Coleman Bryson Phillips Grossman, PLLC, in 2015.

The NCAJ NEXT Program was founded in 2020 for the purpose of engaging NCAJ’s next generation of trial lawyer leaders in North Carolina.   

The program’s goals are to educate participants in the benefits and the expectations of NCAJ membership, to offer an environment for members to build strong relationships with fellow young trial lawyers from a variety of locales and practice areas and ultimately, to better prepare tomorrow’s trial lawyer leaders today.   

Regardless of how you decide to lead in the legal profession, the NCAJ NEXT Program better prepares participants for the day when they assume an important leadership role, not only within NCAJ but within the practice of law at large in our state.

There are many ways for attorneys to build their leadership skill set by engaging with NCAJ. During the various sessions of the NCAJ NEXT program, participants will learn more about and be empowered to: 

Jes Averhart | 2022 NCAJ NEXT Facilitator

Jes Averhart is the founder of Jes & Co. specializing in stakeholder engagement and leadership development. Jes advises executive leadership on growth strategies and talent development.

Her cross-industry corporate engagement includes companies within Research Triangle Park and the American Underground, a Google for Startups Tech Hub (aka, the “Startup Capital of the South” by CNBC).

Learn More

Program Sessions & Dates 

The 2022 NCAJ NEXT Program consists of six sessions. This year’s class will kick off in January in Raleigh and conclude at the 2022 NCAJ Annual Convention in Charlotte.  

NEXT participants are expected to meet certain attendance requirements in order to complete the program and be considered graduates. 

Thursday, January 13, 2022
Kick-off and Leadership Session

Raleigh, NC

Thursday, February 3, 2022
Advocacy Day and Judicial Day

Raleigh, NC

Thursday, March 3, 2022
Diversity, Inclusion & Implicit Bias

Charlotte, NC

Thursday, March 31, 2022
Learning from Legends & Generations of Lawyers

Greensboro, NC

Thursday, April 28, 2022 and Friday, April 29, 2022
Personal Branding and Board Training
Raleigh, NC

Thursday, May 19, 2022
Leading from Within – Core Values and Leadership Statement

Raleigh, NC

June 16-18, 2022
NCAJ Annual Convention

Charlotte, NC

How are candidates selected?  

Criteria for Admission   

Applicants must:  

Applicants should submit the following: