Skip to main content

The Specialization Service and Excellence Awards were presented to three exemplary specialists at the 2016 Annual Specialist Luncheon on April 29, 2016.

The awards were originally established by the specialization board in 2006 to honor former board chairs Sara H. Davis, bankruptcy specialist; James E. Cross Jr., real property law specialist; and Howard L. Gum, family law specialist. The awards recognize specialists who meet the following performance criteria:

The Sara H. Davis Excellence Award—Nominations for this award are accepted from North Carolina board certified specialists. The award is presented to a certified specialist who exemplifies excellence in his/her daily work as a lawyer and serves as a model for other lawyers. Special consideration is given for a long and consistent record of handling challenging matters successfully, sharing knowledge and experience with other lawyers, earning the respect and admiration of others with whom the lawyer comes into contact in his/her daily work, and high ethical standards.

The James E. Cross Jr. Leadership Award—Nominations for this award are accepted from members of the North Carolina State Bar who have worked closely with the nominee. The award is presented to a certified specialist who has taken an active leadership role in his/her specialty practice area through presentations at CLE seminars, scholarly writings, participation in groundbreaking cases, or service to an established professional organization.

The Howard L. Gum Service Award—This award is given to a specialty committee member who consistently excels in completing committee tasks. The recipient is highly dedicated to legal specialization, donates his/her time to committee responsibilities, and responds to the needs of the staff and the board in exemplary fashion. Nominations are accepted only from NC State Bar Specialization Committee members.

The 2016 recipient of the Davis award was Albert F. Durham, a bankruptcy law specialist since 2003 from Charlotte. Durham received overwhelming praise and accolades from his associates, colleagues, and partners. One nominator said, “I have known Al to be an enthusiastic advocate and straightforward counselor for his clients, a caring mentor for other attorneys (both within his firm and outside), and an example to the entire bankruptcy bar for his meticulous analytical abilities and encyclopedic knowledge of the Bankruptcy Code. His law partners, associates, and staff unanimously agree that Al serves as an exceptional role model for other lawyers and practices with the highest ethical standards. He is known for his consistent willingness to share his knowledge and experience with other lawyers.”

Another nominator noted that “[Al’s] view is no client is too small to receive the Cadillac Treatment. If a client needs work to be done that the client simply cannot afford, Al does it anyway, regardless of whether or not he will be paid for his efforts, because it is the right thing to do and the right way to do it.”

The 2016 Cross award was presented to Ann Robertson, immigration law specialist since 2001 from Raleigh. One nominator wrote that Robertson “has handled every imaginable an immigration matter over her years of practice.” Some of the many highlights of Robertson’s legal career are securing visas for the principal dancers of the Carolina Ballet, being the first to secure a humanitarian parole for a deported father of two US citizen children whose parental rights were threatened with termination simply because of his nationality, serving as a retained attorney for the Mexican Consulate General of Raleigh since its founding in 2000, and winning grants of refugee protection for clients from such countries as Congo, Liberia, Colombia, Togo, China, and many other nations. Another nominator shared that Robertson is a highly valued speaker and has an extensive list of presentations on immigration law. This list includes not only the presentations associated with her involvement in the Carolinas Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), but also her speaking engagements at local churches and community organizations. Robertson is an advocate for immigration reform and has frequently visited Congressional offices in Washington, DC, as part of the AILA’s National Day of Action efforts to advocate for sensible immigration reform.

The 2016 Gum award was presented to Julie Boyer, juvenile delinquency law and specialty subcommittee member from Winston-Salem. Boyer has been a specialist since the juvenile delinquency law specialty was created in 2011. Boyer was nominated by her fellow subcommittee members for her dedication to the Juvenile Delinquency Law Specialty Subcommittee and the specialization program as a whole. Boyer, being a strong advocate and speaker on the representation of youth in the adult system, was a founding member of the subcommittee, and, as her fellow committee member describes, “instrumental in the creation of the qualifications and exam from scratch, as there were no national examples at the time.” Her nominator goes on to say, 

[t]he committee worked diligently over the course of a year and half soliciting support for the subspecialization, drafting the qualification standards, and drafting the exam. Boyer has done all of this while maintaining a caseload, either in private practice or as a member of the Capital Defender’s Office. She has attended practically every meeting of the committee over the last five years and has been present at every crucial decision point, always offering helpful insight. She has never turned down a request to assist, and constantly volunteers to partake in any additional work needed.

The Board of Legal Specialization extends hardy congratulations to the winners for their milestone achievements.

For more information about the Service and Excellence Awards you can visit, or contact Denise Mullen or Lanice Heidbrink at 919-828-4620. 

Lanice Heidbrink is executive assistant to Alice Mine and administrative assistant to the specialization board. For more information on the State Bar’s specialization programs, visit us online at