J. Blair Craig has left the insurance defense firm he helped found, Harper Waldon & Craig, and joined a plaintiffs’ firm that his son, Brian W. Craig, started with Harlan H.F. Wood at the beginning of the year.
Craig said he left Harper Waldon & Craig in February for Wood & Craig after 26 years because of “office politics,” but he declined to elaborate. His departure comes a year after another name partner, Thomas D. Harper, left Harper Waldon Craig, because its main client, State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co., announced that it would shift from paying hourly rates to flat fees for much of its auto claims defense work.
Craig said he had no issue with State Farm moving to flat fees: “They’re a wonderful client. I have nothing bad to say about State Farm at all.”
Harper Waldon & Craig partner Hilliard V. Castilla said the firm will update its name to reflect the departures of Harper and, now, Craig. “It’s under discussion, and there will be a change, but I can’t tell you right now what it is. There will be an announcement in the near future,” he said.
“We wish Blair the best in his new endeavor. He is a fine attorney, and I know he will do well,” said Castilla. He declined to say anything more on Craig’s departure, saying it was the firm’s policy not to comment on partnership and personnel matters.
Craig said his plan is to take on plaintiffs’ personal injury trial work of every type and description. “I’ve let other attorneys who may not have time to litigate their cases know that I’d enjoy working with them and doing the litigation. I hope to give some bite to their bark.”
He’s preparing to file some cases that were referrals from the plaintiffs’ bar, which he called “a pleasant surprise.”
“I paid so many attorneys money over the years that they’re probably thinking ‘let’s help this guy out,’” he joked.
“It will be a little bit of a change in court not to say ‘I represent the defendant.’ I’ll have to break that habit,” he added.
Craig said it’s been a great experience practicing law with his son. “It’s really been something special for me,” he said. “I hope I can teach Brian some of the things I’ve learned over my 35 years practicing law and that he can teach me some things.”
Brian Craig, 32, said he’d wanted to be a lawyer ever since second grade, when he unexpectedly sat in on one of his father’s trials. Craig said his father was driving him to school one morning when they encountered heavy traffic. His father was due in court in Cherokee County for the last day of a trial. Worried that he’d be late, the lawyer took his son along with him.
Craig said his father introduced him around the courtroom while the jury was out deliberating. When the judge asked what he wanted to be when he grew up, he replied, a lawyer.
“Every day thereafter Dad tried to convince me not to be an attorney,” Craig added, saying his father suggested he become a doctor instead.
He worked at his father’s firm during summers and law school, but he decided to go into family law, later switching to personal injury work. “Insurance defense never intrigued me,” he explained.
But Craig said he’d always hoped to work with his father. “Before he was over here, there wasn’t a day that I didn’t call him and ask for advice on how to handle a case. Now I can just walk down the hall.”
Craig started building a plaintiffs’ practice while affiliated with family law firm Lynch & Shewmaker, after deciding family law was too contentious. He said he’s handled plaintiffs’ cases exclusively for the past two years.
“In personal injury law you’re dealing with people’s injuries. You’re trying to right the wrong, by way of money,” he said. “In the domestic world there is no righting the wrong. You’re in the middle of people’s fights over pots and pans-and there’s rarely a happy ending.”
Wood, 40, and Craig met because Wood was subletting space from Lynch & Shewmaker for his criminal defense practice. He’d gone out on his own in 2010 after 5 years as an assistant district attorney in Cherokee County and then a stint working with criminal defense attorney Thomas J. Ford III. “I love being in court,” he said.
He got into personal injury law after a former client was severely injured in a motorcycle accident last year and contacted him for help. Wood had never handled a personal injury matter, so he brought Craig onto the case. “That happened several times and I found that I enjoyed it,” he said. “Personal injury is much less of the fight, the fisticuffs. It’s much less antagonistic.”
The two decided to join forces and launched Wood & Craig at the beginning of the year. Wood said the firm’s focus is personal injury cases, although he is still handling some criminal defense work.
They are subletting space from The Mabra Firm at 197 14th St. N.W., right across the street from the Silver Skillet.
Kasowitz, Benson, Torres & Friedman has signed a new lease for its Atlanta office. The commercial litigation firm, which has 18 lawyers locally, has moved into about 16,000 square feet of space at Two Midtown Plaza, located at 1349 West Peachtree St. N.W. That’s an increase from the 11,000 square feet the firm leased at One Midtown Plaza. The office grew from 10 lawyers to 18 last year when it added eight intellectual property lawyers from Sutherland.
Alston & Bird has added the former co-managing partner of Ballard Spahr’s Los Angeles office as a partner to its real estate and finance practice there. David A. Barksdale represents lenders and servicers for commercial real estate loans, particularly for distressed real estate.
“The firm is intent on cultivating a leading finance practice on the West Coast, and David is a very important part of that plan,” said the firm’s managing partner, Richard B. Hays, in a statement.
Holland & Knight will open an office in Bogota, Colombia, in April-its second in Latin America besides Mexico City. The office will serve foreign companies wanting to do business in Colombia as well as Colombian companies seeking to expand abroad, according to an announcement from the firm. Holland & Knight’s's managing partner, Steven Sonberg, said the approval last fall of a free trade agreement between Colombia and the United States will increase foreign investment and present new opportunities for Colombian companies abroad.
Elsewhere in Latin America, DLA Piper has opened a Mexico City office by acquiring a 14-lawyer transactional team from Thompson & Knight, according to a statement from the firm. DLA Piper’s global co-chairman, Francis B. Burch Jr., said Latin America is an important market. “Many of our clients have major operations in Mexico, while many others do significant business there, so this is a natural fit with plenty of opportunities for growth,” he said.