Caryn McNeill Recognized as a Legal Luminary in North Carolina Lawyers Weekly's Icons Class of 2024

North Carolina Lawyers Weekly 

North Carolina Lawyers Weekly has named Caryn McNeill to its Icons & Phenoms Class of 2024. The Icons & Phenoms program continues the magazine’s long-running effort to honor lawyers on both ends of the career spectrum.

Icons are senior leaders of the legal community with at least 30 years of experience who have made their mark in the courtroom or the boardroom, in their law firms or legal departments, with community organizations, and with local, state and national bar associations, NCLW says.

A graduate of Davidson College and the Duke University School of Law, Caryn has spent her entire career at Smith Anderson, where she advises both public and private entities on employee benefit and executive compensation matters. As a member of Smith Anderson's Management Committee and the leader of its Employee Benefits and Executive Compensation (EBEC) practice group, Caryn has helped shape the firm's trajectory. Her leadership has also been instrumental in garnering top rankings for the EBEC group from entities like Chambers USA and Best Law Firms®, reflecting her commitment to excellence.

In the past year, Caryn has been named to:

  • Best Lawyers, "Lawyer of the Year," Raleigh Employee Benefits (ERISA) Law
  • North Carolina Super Lawyers
  • The Best Lawyers in America (Employee Benefits)
  • Chambers USA: Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation

Additionally, Caryn is an elected member of The American Law Institute, the leading independent organization in the United States working to clarify, simplify and otherwise improve the law.

Caryn was the first woman to chair the Ravenscroft School Board of Trustees, a group charged with ensuring the long-term relevance and sustainability of the 150-year-old independent day school with 1,240 students. During her tenure, she played an integral role in developing and executing the strategic plan that produced “Lead from Here,” a groundbreaking educational initiative to integrate leadership training into the academic education and everyday classroom experience for all children from Pre-K through 12th grade.

Caryn also has an extensive record of service within the North Carolina Bar Association (NCBA) and North Carolina Bar Foundation (NCBF). First drawn to the NCBA’s emphasis on service to the profession and the public, she became involved with its Young Lawyers Division (YLD), leading a mentoring program for young lawyers that was named the American Bar Association YLD’s top service-to-the-profession project nationally. As a young lawyer, she served as YLD Chair, as the American Bar Association (ABA) YLD District 9 Representative, on the NCBA Board of Governors, and on the NCBA Tax Section Council. Caryn later chaired the NCBA’s Pro Bono Strategic Planning Task Force and, as chair of the Lawyer Effectiveness & Quality of Life Committee, planned the NCBA’s first continuing legal education program on Wellness.

Caryn was also instrumental in creating the NCBF’s 4ALL-Lawyers on Call Program, as co-chair of the inaugural "4ALL" Service Day. Now in its 15th year, this annual statewide call-a-lawyer program engages hundreds of attorneys in providing free legal information to thousands of North Carolinians on a single day every March. The project received the ABA’s Harrison Tweed Award, which honors state and local bar projects that improve access to legal services for indigent citizens.

Caryn's vision and commitment culminated in her serving as president of the North Carolina Bar Association and North Carolina Bar Foundation in 2017-2018. Her tenure marked the successful expansion of the ABA's Free Legal Answers program state-wide in North Carolina, allowing lower-income North Carolinians to seek legal advice through a web portal staffed by volunteer attorneys, the launch of the Public Service Academy, a nonpartisan program designed to educate lawyers about the ins and outs of running for public office, and efforts to educate the public about the importance of judicial independence, including this animated video: Judicial Independence. She also spearheaded the establishment of a committee to create new mission, vision and values statements for the NCBF and then bring current their application to the Foundation’s fundraising and outreach efforts. 

As a past president, Caryn led the NCBA/NCBF Talent Development Committee. She currently serves as co-chair of the NCBF Open Door Fund Campaign, which seeks to raise $1 million for a restricted endowment fund that will open doors and create opportunities for first-year North Carolina law students from historically underrepresented or under-resourced backgrounds for years to come.

The entire Icons & Phenoms list can be viewed here.


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