Boston Harbor and Financial District at sunset. (Photo: Marcio Jose Bastos Silva/Shutterstock.com)

The Beantown legal boom is continuing into 2019, with Atlanta-based Freeman Mathis & Gary picking up an 18-lawyer team, including 13 partners, from LeClairRyan and launching a new Boston office.

Jeff Alitz, Janet Barringer, Catherine Bednar, Paul Boylan, Ben Dunlap, Michael Giunta, Neil Hartzell, Warren Hutchison, Kevin Kenneally, Tom McCraw, Nancy Reimer, Dave Slocum and Michael Weinberg all joined Freeman Mathis as partners last week.

Kenneally, who led LeClairRyan’s Boston office, will now lead Freeman Mathis’ new outpost.

LeClairRyan’s Marc Finkel is also joining the firm as of counsel. William Gildea, Thomas Hay, Sandra Lynch and Eric Martignetti are joining as associates.

“This is an amazingly attractive group of lawyers,” said Ben Mathis, Freeman Mathis’ co-founder and managing partner. “They, from day one, are in our key practice areas and have partner-level expertise in all our key practice areas and that’s very hard to find.”

Founded over two decades ago in Atlanta, Freeman Mathis has grown from a three-lawyer firm to one with 150 lawyers spread across 15 offices in eight states.

In 2013 it completed its first merger in a combination with San Francisco litigation boutique Strazulo Fitzgerald, and it has been expansion mode ever since. Four years after its initial combination in California, the firm merged with California litigation defense firm Gilbert, Kelly, Crowley & Jennett, which gave it new offices in San Diego and Sacramento.

“We believe that having a bigger presence in major markets is what our clients are interested in and that has been our strategic goal,” Mathis said.

“Our growth and whether or not we grow is really dictated by our ability to find those groups of people,” he added, noting that the firm plans on making several lateral partner additions in the coming months as well as pursuing potential mergers in two major markets.

Freeman Mathis’ new office will be located in Boston’s financial district at 60 State Street, sharing the building with LeClairRyan’s now greatly reduced Boston office.

Prior to these departures, its Boston office was LeClairRyan’s third largest, behind its Newark, New Jersey, and Richmond, Virginia, offices.

“We wish our former colleagues well at their new firm, which provides a platform that is likely better suited to support their practices,” said the firm’s New Haven, Connecticut-based litigation department leader, Elizabeth Acee. “As we did in 2018, LeClairRyan will continue to focus on growth concentrated on market segments that provide diverse business and litigation services to our clients, while generating better profits per partner at the firm.”

Last June, LeClairRyan partnered with UnitedLex Corp., an Overland Park Kansas-based alternative legal services provider, to launch ULX Partners LLC, a platform that outsources nonlegal operations for law firms for a minority equity stake in the venture.

As a result, more than 300 LeClairRyan employees joined ULX Partners in what it then touted as a way to help the firm provide “what we need today and in the coming years,” LeClairRyan CEO Erik Gustafson told The American Lawyer last year.

But it remains to be determined whether the move will help LeClairRyan overcome years of declining revenue and partnership departures.

Over the past three years, the firm has seen a sustained drop in revenue, falling 13 percent from $163 million in 2016 to $142 million in 2018, Am Law 200 figures show. Last year LeClairRyan saw 42 partners—nearly 20 percent of its equity partnership—head for the door, according to data compiled by ALM Intelligence.

But LeClairRyan CEO C. Erik Gustafson said the firm was executing on a strategic vision, and that it was continually recruiting in key practices.

“The movements over the past year are reflective of our efforts to shift our focus to one that includes a greater proportion of corporate, business litigation, employment, financial services, regulatory, and intellectual property engagements as evidenced by the addition of more than 20 lateral partners in those practices in 10 of our offices in the past year,” Gustafson said in a statement. “From a business perspective we recognize the importance of continuing to improve our financial performance, increasing our profits per partner and revenue per lawyer. This necessarily involves heartfelt changes.”

 

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