High Stakes: Trial Attorney Patrick Mincey ’03 Is Counselor to the Situation

a young white man wearing a suit sitting in a dark room with a lamp behind

Patrick Mincey ’03 is the chair of Cranfill Sumner LLP’s White Collar, Government Investigations & Special Matters Practice Group. Photo by Madeline Gray.

Winter Harbor provides some of the last good moorings before the Maine coast climbs to Nova Scotia. 

As Patrick Mincey ’03 tied his sailboat, his phone screen came alive. It was his law partner. Mincey could call him later. 

The phone lit up again. 

Mincey climbed the mast to get a better cell signal. Perched above Sand Cove in the summer of 2022, he heard his favorite kind of story — a dramatic tale about an interesting person in serious trouble. 

Will Wilkerson, an executive with Trump Media and Technology Group, possessed substantial evidence of securities violations in the founding of Truth Social, the former president’s social media platform. 

Wilkerson had information of historic significance. He needed the right lawyers, and Mincey’s firm was an ideal choice. 

A partner in the Wilmington, North Carolina, office of Cranfill Sumner, Mincey’s practice focuses on three kinds of clients: whistleblowers, particularly related to kleptocracy and cryptocurrency crimes; executive boards facing serious legal crises; and clients navigating complex investigative processes.

Mincey and his team received global attention for representing Mark Coffey, a North Carolina whistleblower who accused Avenir Private Advisors of laundering millions of dollars stolen from Venezuela’s state oil company. Coffey’s complaint to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) touched off an investigation that involved the Department of Justice and the FBI.

In some cases, Mincey and his colleagues serve their clients by making noise, by shining bright lights in dark places. They use the media to shape public narratives and to pressure government agencies to act. They argue high-stakes cases before judges and juries.

In other cases, discretion is Mincey’s most important quality. A corporation’s stock price or a prominent career depends on his ability to attract as little attention as possible.

These cases might seem to require different kinds of attorneys. But for Mincey, they all share a fundamental quality — the excitement of crafting stories for people facing the most serious trouble of their lives.     

The Theatre of the Law

Mincey became fascinated with the law as a boy in Pinehurst, North Carolina. One firm in town, Van Camp, Meacham and Newman, stood out as “the movers and shakers,” Mincey recalled.

“They handled the cases everyone talked about,” he said. 

Then came the OJ Simpson trial. In January 1995, Simpson, a former pro football player and media personality, went on trial for the murder of his ex-wife and one of her friends. The televised proceedings became a national obsession. Watching F. Lee Bailey, one of Simpson’s defense attorneys, hooked Mincey on “the theatre of the law. The action.” 

When the time came to choose a college, his father told him that if he wanted to go to school in North Carolina and get an education that would take him anywhere, Davidson was the place.

Mincey arrived on campus with an open mind. When his first-year advisor quizzed him about career interests, Mincey — a doctor’s son — said, “maybe med school.” The advisor shook his head and said, “students who go to med school know they want to go to med school.”

Ultimately, the lure of the written word proved irresistible. Mincey shelved books in the E.H. Little Library and fell in love with the Rare Book Room. He also met three English faculty members who shaped his love of literature and his philosophy of life.

Prof. Gill Holland taught Mincey that literature and art make existential demands. 

“They capture passion, and they compel human beings to feel, to seek out beauty and adventure,” Mincey said. “It is your duty to do so.” 

Holland’s classes exposed Mincey to a parade of literary lives lived in this spirit; they also gave Mincey opportunities to recite and perform.

Prof. Randy Ingram introduced Mincey to two texts that became foundational in his life. King Lear “was devastating.” Reading it with Ingram made Mincey an English major. Milton’s Areopagitica provided an eloquent defense of free expression that still shapes Mincey’s commitments as a lawyer.

In Mincey’s senior year, Prof. Randy Nelson’s course on legal fiction combined Mincey’s love of literature and his sense of the courtroom as a stage. The course culminated in a mock trial in Phi Hall with Nelson presiding. Mincey jockeyed for a position as lead counsel for one of the parties. 

“I really wanted to be good,” he said, “but I really just wanted to have fun, too.” 

Mincey remembers the exhilaration of stepping into “this sacrosanct building in the heart of campus” with its high ceilings and windows, the drapes, the perfect lighting for a courtroom drama. 

At the end of the trial, Mincey’s classmates voted him Most Likely to Become a Trial Lawyer. Mincey also remembers “Judge” Nelson’s “strong observations” about badgering witnesses. 

Mincey’s summers involved long road trips with Davidson friends, Kerouacian adventures full of talk about literature, ideas, and Grateful Dead shows. He saw a lot of the country and experienced the kind of freedom and adventure he had encountered in literature.

These Davidson experiences, in the classroom and on the road, forged a philosophy that shaped Mincey’s approach to life and the practice of law.

“You cannot be complacent about life. You are supposed to feel broken down and forced to engage with life and the work you choose,” he said. “If you pursue a duty or a higher calling, it will lead you into a life of adventure.”

Counselor to the Situation

After law school at Mercer University, Mincey returned to Pinehurst and joined Van Camp, Meacham and Newman — the firm that inspired him as a boy. It was an ideal starting place for a young lawyer who wanted to try big cases in front of judges and juries. Mincey’s work quickly focused on criminal cases. He went into a courtroom five days a week, sometimes traveling to three counties in a single day. He argued in federal courts across the state. 

One early case that involved evidence from repressed memory went to the North Carolina Supreme Court. The high court upheld the trial court’s ruling in favor of Mincey’s client. As a result of the ruling, the state legislature changed laws regarding the admissibility of repressed memory evidence. Only later Mincey learned that the trial judge, The Honorable Joe Craig ’78, was a Davidson alumnus. The two became close friends. 

In 2010 Congress passed the Dodd-Frank Act. One of the law’s provisions created the Office of the Whistleblower at the SEC. The law also established a compensation fund that allows whistleblowers to receive payment when the government collects from violators. 

Mincey joined Cranfill Sumner LLP two years later with a mandate to build a practice focused on white collar cases, government investigations and regulatory issues. 

Dodd-Frank provided opportunities to do exciting work with public value. Mincey began making presentations about Dodd-Frank and established a reputation as an expert within the legal community. When Mark Coffey and Will Wilkerson decided to blow the whistle, contacts knew who to call.   

“I like the big stage and the bright lights of a trial with very high stakes,” he said. “I choose the cases I want to take, and I choose the big ones.” 

Mincey is the firm’s master storyteller. He constructs the overarching narrative, and he chooses how to convey it in legal briefs, in the courtroom, and in the media. 

“Who’s the audience?” is always his first question. “What story do I need to tell them?”

Mincey frequently works with media outlets to manage coverage of high-profile cases, helping reporters to flesh out stories or encouraging them to delay stories that would provide a partial or misleading account. 

In other cases, like the whistleblowers, Mincey and his colleagues provide research and analysis to journalists whose stories might prompt public officials to act.

In October, Mincey provided the SEC and top global newspapers with new evidence that a suspected Salvadoran national on a U.S. sanctions list might have invested in the Trump Media and Technology Group. 

In November, The Wall Street Journal reported that the Federal Reserve would join the Department of Justice, the SEC and other agencies in investigating Morgan Stanley for possible involvement in the Venezuela money-laundering case. Mincey had been working with the reporter for nearly a year.

Investigating these global financial crimes has made Mincey an expert in cryptocurrency, as well as money-laundering and whistleblowing. He continues to participate in an investigation of international networks that have used U.S. financial institutions to move money tied to Hezbollah.

Mincey has no interest in joining an ideological camp or serving only one type of client. His mission is to serve as “counselor to the situation.” One day he might work on a money laundering or cryptocurrency case. The next day he might work on a political scandal or a whistleblower case.

“You have more fun and more challenging work if you don’t commit to one side,” he said. “The variety is exciting and forces you to keep learning.”