E. Osborne Ayscue Jr

As counsel to the firm, Ozzie shares with other lawyers in the firm his experience, derived from a 52 year career, by consulting on substantive, procedural and strategic issues arising in their client engagements and generally acting as a mentor for younger lawyers.

As a civil trial and appellate lawyer, he tried to verdict as lead counsel a wide range of major tort and commercial cases that included breach of contract, breach of trust, antitrust and unfair competition, product liability, professional liability, libel, employment discrimination, covenants not to compete, ERISA, federal tax refund and banking law, defending those that were appealed. He prosecuted declaratory actions to reform trusts and wills, prosecuted or defended construction, patent validity and infringement, aircraft crash and civil rights cases and defended through trial and appeal, or settlement, class actions alleging securities fraud, breach of fiduciary duty and employment discrimination.

After an apprenticeship in a high-volume insurance defense and product liability practice in which he tried well over a hundred jury cases, in 1969, Ozzie successfully defended General Motors in a high-profile Corvair rollover case. In 1970, he participated in the successful defense and settlement of the government’s antitrust challenge to the merger of a major bank and a non-bank financial services institution and he thereafter transitioned to a business-related trial practice that included acting as lead trial counsel in a number of antitrust trials involving various industries. He represented a lawyer in the case that established the proper role of counsel for a publicly-held company in shareholder litigation in North Carolina. He was lead trial counsel for the plaintiffs in a commercial case that resulted in what was for two decades the largest collected jury award in North Carolina history. Developing expertise in the emerging field of media law, he successfully defended a local newspaper in two high-profile libel trials. As local counsel, he participated in the defense of a securities fraud class action against a major banking institution, drafting the motion that resulted in its dismissal for discovery abuse. His last two major trials were class actions, one of which, the largest civil case ever tried in North Carolina, both established the law in the Fourth Circuit on class actions and foreclosed attempts to turn simple contract disputes into torts, carrying enhanced damages.

A cum laude graduate of Phillips Andover, Ozzie attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, graduating in three years and completing a year of graduate work, holding a number of leadership positions and earning a letter in varsity lacrosse. He then served from 1955 to 1957 as gunnery officer on the USS Waldron (DD-699), seeing peacetime duty from the Caribbean to the Mediterranean and the Persian Gulf, before returning to law school.

After law school, he began his professional career as the seventh lawyer in the Charlotte firm that in 2008 was merged into McGuireWoods, and he has spent his entire career in that firm and its successors. In 1968, upon the death of one partner and the ascension to the federal bench of his principal mentor, he became at age thirty-five the firm’s sole active trial lawyer, and over the next four decades recruited and developed what became one of the region’s leading teams of trial lawyers.

He served as president of his local Bar and of the North Carolina Bar Association and for four years was that Association’s representative in the American Bar Association House of Delegates. He drafted the North Carolina adaptation of the 1970 version of the Federal Rules of Discovery, led a long-range planning committee that substantially reorganized the North Carolina Bar Association and served as co-chair of the State Bar committee that implemented mandatory statewide continuing legal education. He served as President of the UNC Law School Alumni Association and was for four years the Fourth Circuit representative on the ABA Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary, charged with independently vetting the professional qualifications of all nominees to the federal bench.

In 1986, he was inducted into the American College of Trial Lawyers and five years later was elected to its governing body, representing North and South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia. He served as its President in 1998-99, and during the years embracing his presidency, traveled over 120,000 miles, attending and speaking at meetings in over thirty-two different states and four provinces of Canada. He also organized the College’s 1998 annual meetings in London and Rome.

Ozzie was co-chair of the United States delegation to an Anglo-American Legal Exchange, coordinating with an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court and the Chief Justice of England the agenda and discussion papers for a week-long 1999 conference of leading jurists and trial lawyers from both countries in Edinburgh and London and for a return conference in Washington in 2000. He also organized and led People-to-People delegations in legal exchanges with China in 1987 and Cuba in 2001.

Long active in the movement to furnish civil legal services to those who cannot afford an attorney, he served as chair of the Board of Directors of the Legal Aid Society of Mecklenburg County (now Legal Services of Southern Piedmont), and for seven years served on the Board of Directors of Legal Services of North Carolina, organizing and leading its first statewide Access to Justice Campaign to fund its work.

Since its inception in 2006, Ozzie has served on the Board of Advisors of the Denver-based Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System (IAALS), whose major efforts range from addressing outmoded civil rules to addressing judicial selection and retention, threats to judicial independence and deficiencies in contemporary legal education. He was the IAALS liaison and a consultant to a joint American College of Trial Lawyers-IAALS task force which has succeeded in generating a national dialogue to examine and modernize the procedures and rules under which civil cases are managed to eliminate the cost and delay that now foreclose many from the civil justice system.

Outside the legal profession, he taught church school for many years and served on the Vestry and as Senior Warden of Christ Episcopal Church, Charlotte, on the Board of Directors of the Friends of the UNC-CH Library, the Board of Trustees of Saint Mary’s School, Raleigh, the Board of Directors of the UNC-CH General Alumni Association and the UNC-CH Board of Visitors.

During the turmoil that accompanied the desegregation of the local public schools, he served on a citizen’s group created to maintain stability and quality in local public school system during those crucial years when Charlotte was establishing itself as a model for peaceful resolution of racial discrimination.

Over the years, Ozzie has written and delivered countless papers on trial and appellate practice, professionalism and leadership, written numerous published articles and memorial tributes and participated in the writing and editing of several histories, including, most recently, a 243-year history of the Mecklenburg County Bar. In 2006, he led the creation of a law and humanities curriculum for lawyers. For the past twelve years he has been the editor and the principal writer of the American College of Trial Lawyers Bulletin, its quarterly publication.

Good to know

Areas of Practice 1) Commercial Litigation, 2) Securities Class Action, 3) Media and First Amendment and 4) Intellectual Property
Law School UNC School of Law, J.D., 1960
Education The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, B.S., 1954
Bar Member / Association North Carolina State Bar Association
Most recent firm McGuireWoods LLP
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