James W. Lea III

With 40 years of experience, James W. Lea III is one of Wilmington NC’s most experienced lawyers.

James W. Lea III

James W. Lea III, Lea, practices extensively in the area of family law and has done so for most of his 40 year career in law. Mr. Lea has served on the North Carolina Bar Association Family Council, a selected group of family lawyers that sets policy and recommends changes to family law on behalf of the North Carolina Bar Association. He was selected to serve on the North Carolina Bar Association Committee on Mediation and Arbitration in family law cases and has spoken at numerous seminars sponsored by the North Carolina Bar Association on issues relating to family law. Mr. Lea has been rated preeminent by Martindate Hubbell since 1996, and is still adding to the multitude of accolades he has earned during this career.

Many good lawyers can “handle” a case. Great lawyers set policy and change the game. Out of 100 cases that the North Carolina Bar Association has deemed the most important cases in family law — James W. Lea, III has been recognized for an astounding 15 cases. His landmark arguments and advocacy has led to law changes in North Carolina that are in place currently.  His critical cases include child custody and child support, post separation support and alimony, equitable distribution and termination of parental rights.

Throughout his legal career, Mr. Lea has gained extensive knowledge in the intricacies of equitable distribution, including but not limited to the valuation of small closely held corporations, division and evaluation of pensions and other complex property issues that arise in family law litigation. He has handled cases involving millions of dollars worth of assets as well as dealing with the difficult emotional issues that are inevitable in marital break-ups.

Mr. Lea has an experienced and extremely talented legal staff that have been with him for many years and have also gained extensive knowledge in dealing with family law issues. The firm prides itself on the organizational aspects of processing family law cases but takes more pride in the sensitivity, care and compassion in which we handle extremely difficult period of time for our clients. We like our clients to feel as if they are with a second family during this emotionally difficult time and do everything possible  meet the needs and concerns of our individual clients.

Mr. Lea has previously served as President of the New Hanover County Bar Association, Chairman of the Democratic Party for New Hanover County, and has served on the Board of Trustees for Cape Fear Community College. Mr. Lea is also the past President of the Residents of Old Wilmington, was the Chairman of fundraising for the YMCA and has served on the Board of Directors for the Opera Theatre Company, and on the Board of Directors for the Historic Wilmington Foundation. Mr. Lea also has created and continues to sponsor a scholarship each year at Cape Fear Community College.

When he is not practicing law, and making Wilmington a better place to live — he  is an avid tennis player and recent winner of the USTA over 55 State Championship.

Areas of Practice

  • Child Support
  • Custody & Visitation
  • Divorce
  • Domestic and Family Law
  • Class Actions/Complex Civil Litigation

Bar Admissions

  • North Carolina, 1980
  • U.S. District Court Eastern District of North Carolina, 1981
  • U.S. Court of Appeals 4th Circuit


  • Campbell University Norman Adrian Wiggins School of Law, Buies Creek, North Carolina
    J.D. – 1980
  • University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina
    B.A. – 1976
  • Honors: Honor Roll
  • Major: Psychology

Professional Associations and Memberships

  • New Hanover County Bar Association, Secretary-Treasurer
  • New Hanover County Bar Association, President Elect, 1991
  • New Hanover County Bar Association, President, 1992
  • North Carolina Bar Association, Family Law Council, Member
  • North Carolina Academy of Trial Lawyers, Member, Political Action Committee, 1987 – 1988
  • National Academy of Trial Lawyers

Credibility Matters

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