When There’s a Will, There’s Always a Way
By Raquel Stubblefield, NC REALTORS® Graphic Design & Production Manager
As a young child, Will Martin—NC REALTORS® General Counsel––wasn’t sure what he wanted to be when he grew up, but he specifically remembers not wanting to be a lawyer since that was what his father was.
“When I got a little older, I remember fantasizing about being a famous writer,” Martin states. Since then, he has become a writer of sorts, but instead of writing the great American novel, Martin authored many real estate contract forms and Legal Q&As used by NC REALTORS® today.
Early Legal Career
When Martin was 26 years old, he asked Celie—his now wife of 39 years—to marry him. When she said “yes,” Martin realized he needed to figure out a way to make a decent living quickly. Becoming a lawyer was the best option he wanted to pursue. Martin attended Wake Forest University School of Law, where he graduated cum laude and received a Juris Doctor degree in 1985.
Martin began practicing law the same year as an associate of Martin & Van Hoy in Mocksville, N.C. There, he engaged in the general practice of law, including general civil and criminal litigation, estate planning, family law, personal injury law, municipal law, commercial law and real property transactions. Three years later, Martin became a partner at Martin & Van Hoy.
In 1989, Martin joined the Winston-Salem firm of Craige, Brawley, Liipfert, Walker and Searcy and later became a partner in 1993. This practice concentrated in the area of business law, including the organization of for-profit, non-profit and professional corporations, limited liability companies, general and limited partnerships and acquisitions and sales of businesses. Other transactional work included operation, financing, merger and dissolution of business entities. Martin also had a significant real estate and estate planning practice.
Martin & Gifford, PLLC
Martin has been a manager at Martin & Gifford, PLLC in Winston-Salem, N.C. since its inception.
“In early 2005, Will suggested that the two of us start a law firm that would focus on representing the state association and some local boards, along with interested firms and brokers across the state,” states Bill Gifford, attorney at Martin & Gifford, PLLC. “Saying ‘yes’ to that suggestion was the best professional decision I ever made!”
Over the last 17 years, Martin taught Gifford about real estate license law, the North Carolina Real Estate Commission’s rules, the Code of Ethics and everything else related to real estate brokerage in North Carolina.
“Will’s knowledge, work ethic, integrity and friendship have made him the ideal law partner. It is impossible to express how much John, Adam and I will miss him,” adds Gifford.
Additionally, Martin, Gifford and other attorneys from the firm have given presentations across the state at local real estate associations, real estate brokerage firms and other groups on standard real estate forms, updates on the law and many other topics of interest to the real estate brokerage community.
He’s also assisted local associations and firms across the state by providing specialized risk management advice and, in some cases, representing firms and agents in civil litigation and in defense of complaints pending before the North Carolina Real Estate Commission.
NC REALTORS® Achievements and Writings
Although soft-spoken and mainly behind the scenes, Martin has been an integral part of NC REALTORS® since coming on board as General Counsel in 1996.
Martin recalls being the person who first suggested the idea of the due diligence contract. He created the first draft of what became “Alternative 2” in 2004, which later morphed into the due diligence contract in 2011.
“I will miss working on the forms in the NC REALTORS® forms library,” Martins says. “I enjoyed developing and maintaining forms used in countless transactions across the state every year.”
Additionally, he wrote hundreds of Q&As and other articles for NC REALTORS®.
“I spent a lot of time and effort in my writings, trying to make them as clear as possible. It’s not easy trying to write something that balances the twin goals of legal accuracy and the education of a non-lawyer audience on a legal topic.”
Lou Jewell, Broker/Owner at Land Pro Real Estate Inc., comments that he has always admired Martin’s contribution to the real estate industry, the Commission and the Association, especially in his Q&A series.
NC REALTORS® Leadership and Committee Contributions
In addition to his writings, Martin advised NC REALTORS® leadership and staff on a wide range of legal matters and advised a number of NC REALTORS® committees on professional standards, forms and risk management issues.
He’s also handled a large number of inquiries from individual members and local associations on legal issues affecting the practice of real estate brokerage and association administration. These subjects included contracts, agency, real estate licensing, landlord/tenant and fair housing laws, Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA) compliance, Multiple Listing Service (MLS) issues and ethics and arbitration proceedings.
“I had the privilege of working alongside Will for over a decade as a member of the Joint Forms Task Force between the North Carolina Bar Association Real Property Section and NC REALTORS®,” states Bob Ramseur, Partner at Ragsdale Liggett PLLC in Raleigh.
“He is deliberate and thoughtful, asks tough questions, challenges his peers and never advocates a position without thinking through it thoroughly,” Ramseur explains.
Kim Dawson, Broker at Allen Tate Realty and 2016 NC REALTORS® President, had the honor of working Martin for over 12 years on the NC REALTORS® Forms Committee.
“Will was an integral part of support and council for leadership,” says Dawson.
Tom Gale—a REALTOR® at Coldwell Banker Sea Coast Advantage and also a member of the NC REALTORS® Forms Committee—describes Martin as “one in a million.”
“Will is a walking encyclopedia of knowledge on NC real estate laws and of the history of our forms,” says Gale. “He was always thoughtful, deliberate, level-headed and kind in reviewing every question or recommendation REALTOR® members had. He has a gift for quickly analyzing the unintended consequences of recommendations and a gift for crafting the forms language.”
Harriette Doggett, Vice President of Sales and Broker-in-Charge at Midtown Office at Fonville Morisey Realty, further supports Gale’s comments by saying that Martin was a “wealth of knowledge” when it came to the real estate industry. Doggett and Martin worked together on the NC REALTORS® Professional Standards Committee.
“We could always count on Will to keep us up to date with any Code of Ethics changes. He always made difficult interpretations easier for us to understand,” explains Doggett.
After the loss of Garth Dunklin in January 2021, Martin stepped up and accepted the additional task of serving as Chair of the NC REALTORS® REALTOR® Commercial Alliance (RCA).
According to F. Spruill Thompson, Senior Vice President at Cape Fear Commercial, both Dunklin and Martin are responsible for all of the good that has occurred with the North Carolina commercial REALTORS® forms. Although Dunklin was front and center on this committee, Martin was the background driving force for approving Dunklin’s recommendations.
“Will has been the reigning authority behind the scenes for many years. He preferred to remain out of the spotlight, but we knew his brilliance was leading our decisions,” says Thompson.
Lewis Grubbs, Broker-in-Charge at Coldwell Banker Advantage, has enjoyed the great relationship with Martin since becoming a member of the NC REALTORS® Residential Forms Committee. He describes Martin as “a person who was always accessible and willing to answer questions related to both forms and contracts.”
The NC REALTORS® Legal Hotline
Many members will remember Martin as being one of the attorneys who fielded numerous calls and emails through the NC REALTORS® Legal Hotline. Through this member benefit, NC REALTORS® find quick resolutions to their legal questions.
Kajal Patel, a Broker/REALTOR® at Open Doors Realty, LLC, remembers an incident when she had many questions about a situation. “Will was great! I had called him so many times, and he was very nice and patiently explained everything.”
Cindy Mayberry, Broker-in-Charge at Rose & Womble Realty, was very familiar with Martin. She, like many other members, used the NC REALTORS® Legal Hotline time after time.
“My goal when sending Will an email with a legally challenging tone was always to stump him! For the years of my attempts, his absolute knowledge and expertise left me losing the stumping battle,” laughs Mayberry.
In the words of Karen Allred, Broker/Owner at Allred & Company REALTORS® LLC, Martin has been there for many REALTORS® when they needed guidance through their real estate career.
After tens of thousands of Legal Hotline calls and emails, Martin appreciates learning to be a more patient person and a better listener.
“I will miss talking with REALTORS® on the Legal Hotline,” he says. “Just when I think the person on the other end of the line is telling me a story I’ve heard a thousand times, they throw in an unusual fact that changes everything. Working the Legal Hotline has taught me that I have to be able to look at situations in a new light. It kept me on my toes!”
After 26 years as NC REALTORS® General Counsel, Martin will retire in December 2022. He emphasized that he will miss the interaction with NC REALTORS® staff and leaders, the members of various NC REALTORS® committees and the staff at the North Carolina Real Estate Commission.
“NC REALTORS® has a great, dedicated staff. I’ve really enjoyed working with them,” says Martin. “I’ve always tended to be somewhat solitary in the way I work, so I learned a lot from the association’s staff about how important it is to communicate and collaborate effectively.”
Martin also accentuated how he was truly amazed at the amount of time NC REALTORS® volunteer leaders and committee members freely give to the association and the real estate brokerage industry.
When asked what are three things on his retirement bucket list, Martin replied that he wants to cycle from coast to coast, see the Cardinals play at Busch Stadium in St. Louis and go ice fishing.
“Not many know about Will the athlete!” expresses Dawson. “I saw that side of Will during an NC REALTORS® Convention in Asheville when we did white water rafting on the Broad River. His lead kept us afloat, and we were the only raft that did not flip over, hit rocks or bottom out.”
In addition, Martin looks forward to riding his bicycle several days a week, playing golf, doing yard work and reading more books. Martin and his wife, Celie, can’t wait to travel more. They’ve completed several cycling trips in Europe and the western part of the United States already, but are eager to add more adventures to their lives.