Miller Monroe & Plyler Building a Firm Foundation
Miller Monroe & Plyler Building a Firm Foundation
The Rialto Theatre marquee is as iconic to the Five Points section of Raleigh as the Hollywood sign is to Los Angeles. So the celebrated theatre was the perfect spot for a photo shoot with the law firm of Miller Monroe & Plyler PLLC. They recently planted a flag in Five Points, just up Glenwood Avenue from the Rialto.
When the firm was looking to move from its office near the NC State campus, buying an office in Five Points was a no-brainer. All seven attorneys – Jason Miller, Jeff Monroe, William Plyler, Paul Flick, John Holton, Rob Rader, and Will Smith – live close by and share deep community roots that have been foundational to the firm’s growth over the last decade plus.
Down to the Crossroads
Five Points is the combination of five local communities. They all come together at a major intersection anchored since 1929 by Hayes-Barton Pharmacy. The neighborhood was developed in the 1910s and ‘20s. A streetcar ran along Glenwood Avenue to connect Five Points to downtown. The Bloomsbury Park section was once home to an amusement park.
“Five Points presents a unique blend of families, business owners, executives and professionals,” said Jason Miller. “The children in the surrounding neighborhoods interact with each other regularly in school, community sports and church groups. Those are the grassroots relationships on which our firm is centered. Although Raleigh has grown tremendously over the years, Five Points makes Raleigh feel quite local. We have been fortunate to handle high-profile and complicated legal disputes over the last decade, and most of these cases stem from the trust we have built through relationships in this community.”
A football skittered down the hallway and into the lobby of the firm’s new office as John Holton and his son, 6-year-old Charlie, chucked the ball before walking him to school. Kids are in and out of the office, and attorneys rush out to run the family shuttle or coach a team at any given time.
“Our special sauce is that our entire team is family-oriented and embedded in their communities,” added Jeff Monroe. “We see our clients at church, the grocery store and local restaurants. Our clients know us. They know they can trust us and count on us. Although we have enjoyed some growth, we are still focused on our families, friends and the local community.”
“What’s most important to us is that we have a culture where we put our families first and do that in a way that is meaningful. That Charlie looks forward to coming over here and throwing the football around before school. Whatever opportunities or growth we enjoy, we don’t ever want to lose that,” said Miller.
“We have been committed to building a practice where our team could prioritize their families and have the freedom and flexibility to structure their work in a way that allows for a healthy balance,” said Monroe. “This structure has paid off tremendously. We can spend quality time with our families, which makes us happier to come to work. We believe this translates to a better quality of service to our clients and our community.”
If and when the firm grows, it would be to add depth to its core practice areas with key character fits rather than trying to be a full-service firm. Miller said the firm enjoys being a boutique, high-caliber litigation shop and is more interested in people who fit the firm’s culture than just having a big book of business.
John Holton, Will Smith and Rob Rader
We want to find people we really like and trust – who are pillars in our community or are committed to becoming one.
“We’re going to be very intentional in how we grow,” Miller said. “We are only looking for high character and highly skilled folks that match up with our firm’s core values. We want to find people we really like and trust – who are pillars in our community or are committed to becoming one. That’s more important than any sort of business plan.”
Will Smith is the latest addition to the firm. He attended Campbell Law School with Miller’s wife, Kimberly (who is a partner at Raleigh-based personal injury firm Owens & Miller). Smith’s children attend school with the Millers’ kids. The partners decided that Smith, who was with the Attorney General’s Office and NCDOT for the eight years prior, and his condemnation and eminent domain practice was an ideal fit for the firm.
“Will is a family-oriented individual with deep ties in the local community. He is also a skilled litigator with a big-firm pedigree and an emerging thought leader in eminent domain,” said Monroe.
Other previous additions include John Holton, who brought extensive personal injury, medical malpractice and business litigation experience when he joined the firm one month after concluding a billion-dollar breach of contract trial while practicing with a large regional firm. Paul Flick, a seasoned commercial litigator and mediator, was the former managing partner of an established Raleigh firm before joining in 2018. Rob Rader fit in seamlessly when he joined the firm fresh out of law school in 2019.
Many of the attorneys at MMP received top-notch training at bigger firms. “We gained valuable training from excellent lawyers and exposure to complicated legal issues. But each of us wanted a smaller, more local focus and sought to find a way to practice law that more closely aligned with our priorities,” said Holton.
Jason Miller, William Plyler and Jeff Monroe
Jason Miller and Jeff Monroe met at the UNC School of Law. As former college athletes, they were kindred spirits and talked about opening a law firm together someday.
Miller played Division 1AA football at Siena College. Monroe was an NCAA Division III basketball player at Hampden-Sydney College, twice earning All-American honors. You have to look for it, but tucked in the corner of his office is his college hall of fame plaque.
“While the firm was formed in 2009, it took its present form when Jeff joined in 2013. Before we partnered, we held a series of meetings to discuss our shared values and what we envisioned for the future of the firm,” said Miller.
“Central to these discussions was our shared vision for growing a firm based on roots in the local community,” Miller continued. “We wanted the firm to grow organically through friendships and business relationships – not billboards and advertisements. We hoped that if we invested in these relationships, someday we might have the opportunity of being viewed as trusted counselors to our local community. Equally important, Jeff and I recognized that prioritizing our families was paramount.”
Miller opened an office as a sole practitioner in the heart of the recession in 2009. Monroe joined him in 2013 to launch Miller Monroe. A decade later, the pair has grown into a well-rounded litigation group. Commercial litigation and catastrophic injury/wrongful death cases are the seven-lawyer firm’s primary practice areas. The commercial group frequently handles business break-ups, contract disputes, and construction disputes; while the injury team focuses on cases involving wrongful death, serious car accidents, construction accidents, medical malpractice, product liability, and abuse/neglect cases.
We wanted the firm to grow organically through friendships and business relationships – not billboards and advertisements.”
Plyler Brings Experience
William Plyler, whose daughter, Settle, is married to Monroe, joined the firm in 2017. He brought with him four decades of experience, first as a prosecutor, then as a civil litigator focused on wrongful death and personal injury cases.
“I’ve been around long enough to have some experience in pretty much every area of the law, so if there is a case, I can at least bring my perspective and my experience to it. Maybe I can bring some insight and expertise to the matter that may not be available to someone who hasn’t practiced quite as long as I have,” said Plyler.
He is a past president of both the WCBA and Tenth J.D. Bar, a member of the Fourth Circuit Judicial Conference and was an inaugural member of the Susie Sharp Inn of Court. In November 2022, Plyler was given the prestigious Joseph Branch Professionalism award by the Wake County Bar Association. According to the WCBA, “The Branch is given to a Wake County lawyer with at least 25 years of experience who exemplifies the qualities of professionalism stated in the professionalism creed and is the highest honor bestowed by the WCBA.”
“William represents the high-water mark for the good that lawyers can do in our community. He is a zealous advocate but treats everyone in his path with kindness and respect,” said Miller. “He seeks out the good in all people and cherishes an opportunity to fight the good fight for the victims we represent. Despite his notoriety and tremendous accomplishments over the decades, his humility and selflessness are his most noteworthy characteristics, and this is a constant reminder to everyone in our firm.
Back Row: Jeff Monroe, William Plyler and Jason Miller. Center Row: Paul Flick, Kayla Ward, Jenn Garvey and Rob Rader. Front Row: John Holton and Will Smith
The athletic ethos that brought Miller and Monroe together is a part of the corporate culture at the firm. Its other five attorneys all played, and continue to play, sports at varying levels. There is a lot of laughing, competition and good-natured ribbing when members of the firm get together.
“There is a team mindset,” said attorney John Holton. “There is an understanding that everybody’s going to have strengths. Our clients benefit from our ability to leverage those strengths.”
The firm recently obtained a $4.9 million settlement for a non-verbal autistic child with severe developmental and intellectual disabilities who was repeatedly beaten and traumatized by her caregivers. On the business side, the firm has handled complicated international and multi-state business break-ups and contract disputes. Their teamwork has been on display in recovering seven-figure settlements in recent years for business clients and victims of construction accidents, dog maulings, and car accidents.
“We lean on each other for constant strategic guidance, whether through an all-team meeting with both attorneys and staff or an informal drop-in at someone’s office. The typical result is a new and stronger strategy. You might hire one of our attorneys, but in many ways, you get the whole firm,” said Monroe.
“Within a month of getting here, I witnessed the collaboration and quickly understood the personalities and dynamic. Teamwork is central to the culture here, and it gives our clients a real advantage,” said Smith.
Here to Stay
It’s been an eventful decade for Miller Monroe & Plyler. “We have grown from a solo shop to a firm with the depth and experience to handle the most catastrophic injury cases and complicated business disputes,” said Miller. “The firm’s recent move signifies the permanence of its commitment to Raleigh and secures its place within the city’s legal landscape for decades to come.”
At a Glance
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