Judge Linda Stephens brings nearly four decades of experience to her clients, including eleven years as a NC Court of Appeals Judge, four years as a Deputy Commissioner at the NC Industrial Commission, and over 20 years of private practice.  At Hedrick Gardner, she serves a client base ranging from small and medium size businesses to Fortune 500 companies.

Linda’s distinguished career includes many firsts.  She was the first person in her family to graduate high school and became the first female law clerk to Court of Appeals Judge Fred Hedrick, brother of Hedrick Gardner’s founder, Phil Hedrick.  After serving four years as a Deputy Commissioner at the NC Industrial Commission, she became the first female associate at a Raleigh law firm and five years later, its first female partner.  She served as the first female president of the NC Association of Defense Attorneys and was the first person to ever receive the highest awards from both the NC Association of Defense Attorneys and the North Carolina Advocates for Justice.

Judge Stephens was appointed to the Court of Appeals by Governor Mike Easley in 2006.  During her years as a judge, she earned a reputation of applying the law fairly to everyone.  In her last campaign, she earned the endorsements of both the North Carolina Association of Defense Attorneys and the North Carolina Advocates for Justice, representing opposing sides in the courtroom.

Experience and Involvement


  • College of Workers’ Compensation Attorneys, 2018-present
  • NC Pro Bono Honor Society, 2018, 2019
  • Temporary Wake County Administrative Law Judge, 2019
  • Board Member, Women’s Forum of North Carolina, 2019
    • Legal Committee member, 2017-present
    • Member of Executive Board, 2019-2022
    • Legal Committee Chair, 2019-2022
  • Adjunct Faculty, National Institute of Trial Advocacy (NITA) 2019
    • Motion Skills Training Program
  • UNC Craven Competition semi-final round 2019, Judge
  • Fellow, College of Workers’ Compensation Lawyers
  • N.C. Equal Access to Justice Commission 2017-present
    • Pro Bono Resource Center Advisory Board 2018-2022
  • Member, Family Court Advisory Committee August 2013-2016
  • North Carolina Association of Defense Attorneys, 1993-2005; 2017-present
    • Director 1993-1996
    • Secretary 1997-1999
    • Executive Vice-President 1999-2000
    • President-Elect 2000-2001
    • President 2001-2002
  • Chair, North Carolina Defense Fund, 2002-2005
  • Chair, North Carolina State Bar Workers’ Compensation Specialization Committee, 2003-2005
    • Committee member, 2000-2003
  • North Carolina State Liaison, Defense Research Institute, Workers’ Compensation Section, 1998-2005
  • Wake County Bar Association
  • North Carolina Bar Association
  • North Carolina Association of Women Attorneys
    • (Chair, Judicial Division 2010-2012)
  • Wake Women Attorneys
  • Board of Directors, Purr Partners Rescue

PUBLICATIONS: What It Means to be a Defense Attorney, North Carolina Association of Defense Attorneys, March 2021. Click here to read the article.

PRESENTATIONS: Presenter of continuing legal education seminars and panel participant on topics including ethics, professional responsibility, appellate practice, workers’ compensation, women in the judiciary and the legal profession.



  • 2023 South Carolina Honors College Distinguished Alumni Award
  • 2022 Gwyneth B. Davis Award
  • 2020 H. Brent McKnight Renaissance Lawyer Award, N.C. Bar Association
  • 2017 NC Pro Bono Honor Society
  • NCAWA Outstanding Judge of the Year Award, 2017
  • 2016 Appellate Judge of the Year, N.C. Advocates for Justice
  • 2015 J. Robert Elster Award for Professional Excellence (First female recipient; presented by N.C. Association of Defense Attorneys)
  • 2013 Woman of Justice Award
  • GFWC of North Carolina Woman of Achievement, 2009
  • Listed in Best Lawyers in America©, Workers’ Compensation Section, 1995-2006
  • North Carolina Super Lawyers® Recognition 2006 (Top 50 Women Lawyers)
  • 2002 Recipient of Defense Research Institute’s Fred H. Sievert Outstanding Defense Bar Leader Award
  • DRI Exceptional Performance Citation, 2002
  • NCAWA Woman of Wisdom Award, 2007, 2006
  • Life Member, National Registry of Who’s Who
  • Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award, 1973
  • Phi Beta Kappa, 1972
  • USC Woman of the Year, 1972
  • Carolina Scholar, 1969-1973