After five years running her own family law firm, Kathy Portnoy is merging it with one of Atlanta’s most established domestic relations firms, Warner, Bates, McGough & McGinnis.
Portnoy becomes the first female partner with her name on the door at the 31-year-old firm, which became Warner, Bates, McGough, McGinnis & Portnoy on June 1.
"I’m excited to be working with them, and they’ve litigated with me so they know what I’m like," she said. "We have been fierce advocates on cases but remained friends and colleagues. I have huge respect for them. They have an impeccable reputation and ethics—and the timing was right."
Portnoy started her firm, Callner Portnoy & Strawser, in May 2008 with the family law practice from Alembik, Fine & Callner, after the abrupt departure of Lowell Fine from that firm sparked its dissolution.
Charla Strawser joined Stern & Edlin earlier this year. The three other lawyers and two staff members from Callner Portnoy & Garner have joined Portnoy at Warner Bates.
Lawyers Kynna Garner and Keith Siver have worked with Portnoy since they were at Alembik Fine & Callner and Kem Eyo joined about a year ago, she said. Paralegal Kathy Harris, who’s worked with Portnoy for 30 years, and an assistant, Kerri Spann, are also making the move.
Portnoy said joining the larger firm, which now has 15 lawyers, relieves her of handling management issues on top of her law practice. "It’s not a task I’ve enjoyed. They have all the infrastructure that I once had at AFC and will have again," she said. "My firm [has been] blessed with a lot of work, and we work really hard. This will enable me to share resources."
Portnoy said she’s known the Warner Bates lawyers a long time, as did her late husband, Bruce Callner, who died of cancer in 2001. She kept his name on the door to honor his memory when she started her firm in 2008.
"I think Bruce would be pleased with this association and proud," Portnoy said. "If this opportunity had existed back then, it would have probably happened," she said. "Timing is everything."
Portnoy, who’s practiced family law for about 30 years, said she is looking forward to working with lawyers with even more experience: Wilbur Warner, Ned Bates and Barry McGough. "They can share their stories and expertise, and I’m looking forward to having people at my level [for cases] who may be a better fit with the client, the judge or opposing counsel."
Portnoy said she and Warner Bates partner Jim McGinnis had talked about joining forces several years ago, but the timing wasn’t right.
McGinnis joined Warner Bates a year ago from his own firm, a few months after an amicable split at the larger firm. One of the founders, John Mayoue, left what was then Warner, Mayoue, Bates & McGough with seven other lawyers to establish Mayoue Gray Eittreim in January 2012.
"I go back a long time with Kathy," said McGinnis, adding that they’ve had cases against each other for a number of years and in the last few years have worked on cases together, where Portnoy brought him in as co-counsel.
McGinnis said he, like Portnoy, was the most senior person in his own, smaller firm when he joined Warner Bates last year. "It’s really nice to have people like Wilbur Warner, Ned Bates and Barry McGough across the hall," he said. "Kathy is certainly a seasoned lawyer, and these guys are more seasoned than me or Kathy."
"I think Kathy’s practice has grown to where she can use the infrastructure we have," McGinnis said, adding that having other attorneys to cover cases can be a big help during a weeklong divorce trial. "And she brings an established practice with four working lawyers."
The additions make Warner Bates one of the largest family law firms in the state, McGinnis said.
Lovita Tandy has rejoined King & Spalding as a partner. The labor and employment lawyer was a partner at the firm from 2004 to 2010 until departing to become a stay-at-home mom. Tandy also has been teaching classes in contracts and negotiation at Atlanta’s John Marshall Law School.
"Lovita’s deep knowledge of labor law, especially as it pertains to the National Labor Relations Board, will be invaluable to our clients," said Alan Prince, the managing partner of the firm’s Atlanta office, in a statement. "She is a talented lawyer and a respected colleague, and we are delighted to have her back."
Paul Durdaller and Valerie Richmond have joined Stites & Harbison’s creditors’ rights and bankruptcy practice from Taylor English Duma. Durdaller joined as a partner and Richmond as counsel. Durdaller launched a creditors’ rights and bankruptcy practice for Taylor English Duma when he joined that firm in March 2009 from Smith, Gambrell & Russell.
Local real estate law firm Rubin Lublin has opened an Alabama outpost, expanding its mortgage default services beyond Georgia, Tennessee and Mississippi. The firm hired Cindy Williams as a partner from the Birmingham firm Sirote & Permutt to manage the new office in Birmingham.
Belgium has gained a business diplomat for the Southeast, naming Anton Mertens of Burr & Forman its first Advisor for Economic Diplomacy in Georgia. Mertens, a native of Brussels, handles business immigration law.
Washington nonprofit Equal Justice Works has announced two Georgia fellows among its 57 national fellowships for new law school graduates to do public interest work. The two fellows, Kristen Tullos and Clayton Adams, both work for the Atlanta Legal Aid Society. Tullos, a 2012 graduate of Emory University School of Law, is sponsored by Ford Harrison and The Home Depot. Adams, a 2013 graduate of Northeastern University’s law school, is sponsored by Alston & Bird and The UPS Foundation.
The Georgia Association for Women Lawyers has established a new award to honor male supporters, dubbed the John Whaley Award, in honor of the accountant who’s kept the group out of tax trouble for 16 years.
Whaley, a CPA at Mauldin & Jenkins, extricated GAWL from a tax mess in 1997, when the board discovered the group had never filed a tax return since incorporating as a nonprofit four years earlier, according to immediate past president Susan Campbell. The board member in charge of filing the returns said the records had been eaten by termites.
Whaley pleaded the group’s case at no charge to the IRS, which agreed to waive more than $50,000 in potential interest and penalties. Since then, he’s continued to handle GAWL’s tax work at a discounted rate and advises the board members on tax issues for 501(c) organizations.
Whaley became the award’s first recipient at GAWL’s annual dinner in May.