Cliff leads the firm's Real Estate Development Practice Group. His practice focuses on representing individual and corporate clients in residential and commercial real estate transactions, such as the preparation and negotiation of purchase and sale agreements, loan agreements, and leases for office and retail space.
Additionally, clients rely on Cliff for the preparation and interpretation of restrictive and protective covenants and other planned community and condominium documents, including marina developments and "boat slip" conveyances.
Cliff provides legal services to cities, public housing authorities, community colleges, and other independent subdivisions of the State, and has extensive experience with board governance issues, open meetings laws, and public records laws.
- J.D., Wake Forest School of Law, 1992. Moot Court Board.
- B.A., magna cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa, Omicron Delta Kappa, Hampden-Sydney College, 1989
- Represented municipality in the special use permit application process for a 400+ acre solar farm
- Represented corporate client in $48 million multi-state loan modification
- Represented landlord in lease negotiations with the U.S. Government and assisted with related financing for upfit
- Represented fast-food franchisee on all real estate matters related to sale of 30-plus stores as part of $25 million asset sale
- Represented developer in multi-parcel assemblage for development of large-scale, multi-tenant shopping center
- Represented municipality in the acquisition of Brownfields property as part of a multi-year process to clean up a former industrial site adjacent to a residential neighborhood
Honors and Distinctions*
- "Best Lawyers in America," 2021
- "Legal Elite," Business North Carolina, 2016
Professional and Community Affiliations
- North Carolina Bar Association — Sections: Zoning, Planning, and Land Use (Council Member); Government & Public Sector; Real Property
- New Bern Area Chamber of Commerce (Leadership Craven Alumnus, Class of 2006)
Admitted to Practice
- North Carolina, 1992
- All state courts in North Carolina
"Keep your small problems small."
I first heard this expression when dealing with my son, who has Asperger's Syndrome. He would tend to let things build up and overwhelm him, not reaching out for help until it was too late for him to deal with his problems rationally, often resulting in melt-downs. I encourage our clients to reach out to us as soon as possible, that by getting us involved early we can do more to help make sure their small problems don't turn into big ones. I certainly don't want our clients having melt-downs.
People might be surprised to know that I've caddied in two PGA Champions Tour events. Golf may not seem like a fast-paced sport, but I've never had so much stuff come at me so fast as I have when I was "inside the ropes." It was, however, the most fun I've ever had on a golf course. Plus, unlimited snacks.
The best thing about Ward and Smith is our "clients first" policy. We work as such a team, always trying to ensure the right person is handling a matter and not worrying about who gets credit for what. I'm not saying our attorneys don't have egos—all successful professionals do—but we check them at the door when it comes to serving our clients.
While I love everything about living in Eastern North Carolina, one other place I'd like to live is Denver, Colorado. I've only been there once, but I had a blast. Tons of things to do outdoors and there are four major professional sports teams. Some folks joke about being Wal-Mart greeters when they retire. I've told my family—not jokingly, though—that I'm going to be a ballboy for the Rockies when I retire.
My favorite fictional character is Billy Pilgrim, the protagonist of Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five. How can you not be intrigued by a character who is introduced with "Listen: Billy Pilgrim has come unstuck in time"? Somewhat bumbling and unremarkable (except for his uncontrollable ability to time travel), he knows when he will die, and realizes how little control he has in his life: "Everything is all right, and everybody has to do exactly what he does." One of Vonnegut's many incredible characters, but the one that got me hooked on our greatest American author.
* Please see the following websites for an explanation of the membership standards for the following recognitions: www.bestlawyers.com; businessnc.com/special-sections/legal-elite/; and www.superlawyers.com/north-carolina.
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