Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton has elected a new leader as the firm evolves from a regional to a national firm, thanks to a major 2011 merger that gave it a large California operation.
Paul Aguggia, a partner in the Washington office, will become the 630-lawyer firm’s new chair on July 1, succeeding Bill Dorris.
Atlantan Henry Walker IV will become co-managing partner, succeeding Diane Prucino. The firm’s other co-managing partner is Maureen Sheehy, the former chair of San Francisco intellectual property firm Townsend and Townsend and Crew, which merged with Kilpatrick Stockton at the beginning of 2011. She has held that post since the firms merged.
At that time Kilpatrick established the chairperson position. Dorris, who had been co-managing partner of Kilpatrick Stockton with Prucino, became the chair and Prucino became co-managing partner with Sheehy.
Choosing a leader from outside of its Atlanta headquarters could be Kilpatrick’s way of signaling that the firm is a national player.
“We have clients all over the place and this law firm has now made that leap — that it has to find the best talent it can wherever it is,” said Prucino.
The post-merger Kilpatrick rose to No. 78 this year on the Am Law 100 ranking of the largest U.S. law firms. Atlanta remains its largest office with 230 lawyers and there are 125 lawyers in the firm’s five California offices.
“Make no mistake, Atlanta is critical to the firm and I expect to be here a lot,” Aguggia said in an interview Monday.
Aguggia, 49, joined Kilpatrick just four years ago, when the firm acquired Muldoon Murphy & Aguggia, a 24-lawyer Washington boutique representing financial institutions in corporate and regulatory matters.
“We’ve integrated quickly, even though it’s been only four years,” he said. “It has been a good fit both culturally and in our approach to clients.”
Aguggia heads Kilpatrick’s financial institutions team — a role he will hand off to Washington partner Gary Bronstein — and has been a member of its executive committee since 2010. He was raised in Queens, N.Y., then headed south for law school at Duke University, settling in Washington with his wife, who is from Maryland.
Dorris said Aguggia’s “uncanny focus on clients and on deepening relationships with clients” is a major reason he was elected, adding that Aguggia understands how to “inspire professionals to be their best and achieve their most.”
“He’s done that in smaller firms and shown that in our firm,” said Dorris.
Aguggia’s rise to chair shows that lateral partners can play a significant role at Kilpatrick, said Dorris. “We don’t expect that people who come to join us have to be here 10 years before they can make meaningful contributions,” he said.
Dorris was also a lateral partner, joining Kilpatrick from Smith, Currie & Hancock in 1998, then becoming the firm’s co-managing partner with Prucino in 2007.
Aguggia was nominated by Kilpatrick’s executive committee and then elected by the partnership. Under the partnership agreement, he said, the chair chooses the co-managing partners.
Walker, 51, started out as a summer associate at the firm in 1985 when it was still Kilpatrick & Cody. He is originally from Griffin and joined Kilpatrick after receiving his law degree from Mercer University.
Walker left Kilpatrick in 1996 to start an in-house litigation team for BellSouth, a Kilpatrick client, and became the company’s chief litigation counsel. BellSouth was acquired by AT&T at the end of 2006 and he returned to Kilpatrick in 2007 as a partner in its litigation group.
Aguggia said Walker’s roots in the firm and location in Atlanta were factors in making him co-managing partner, but that his time in-house was just as important.
“From working at BellSouth and then AT&T, he understands how clients work,” Aguggia said.
Aguggia and Walker, like Sheehy, will serve a four-year term. Even though Kilpatrick’s fiscal year starts in January, said Sheehy, the merger agreement specified that Dorris and Prucino would continue in their roles until July of this year to get the merged firm through the integration process.
Sheehy, 50, became Townsend’s managing partner in 2008 and its chair in 2010. An Ohio native, Sheehy received her law degree from the University of Chicago then returned to California, where she’d earned a B.A. from Stanford University, to start her legal career. The litigator joined Townsend in 2004 when it acquired her prior firm, Legal Strategies Group.
The new Kilpatrick leaders will maintain their law practices, as did Dorris, a construction litigator, and Prucino, an employment lawyer, who are returning to practicing law full time.
“Our model, which is different from some firms, is that we like to have our leaders continue to have a substantial practice,” said Dorris. “We believe it keeps them in touch with clients and keeps them focused on how to help our attorneys succeed in getting the best results for clients.”
Walker and Sheehy said their aim is to spend half their time practicing law and half their time managing the firm. They will handle day-to-day operations, including hiring and staffing, while Aguggia is responsible for client development and the firm’s big-picture strategy. Sheehy will oversee human resources and staffing issues while Walker will focus on client development, marketing and finance.
“I’ve really enjoyed being on the front lines practicing law,” Walker said. “I plan to keep doing it as a managing partner.”
Aguggia said he is not sure how much time running the firm will take. “I’m under no illusions that being the chair is not time-consuming,” he said.
THEN AND NOW
Kilpatrick has gone through a lot of changes in the 5½ years since Dorris and Prucino became its co-managing partners. The Townsend merger, which was the largest U.S. law firm merger of 2011, was the biggest development, said Dorris. “That created a truly national firm and has given us entrees into Asia,” he said.
Townsend had a Tokyo office and the merged firm added an outpost in Taipei, Taiwan, at the beginning of 2011. A Shanghai office is in the works and Dorris said the firm hopes to have the final approvals from the Chinese government by the fall.
Revenue and profit declined in Kilpatrick’s first year after the merger, based on a comparison to the combined 2010 financials of the prior firms. Revenue dropped 7 percent to $362 million and profit dropped 13 percent to $105 million, resulting in 2011 profit per partner of $632,530.
Prucino said integrating the Kilpatrick and Townsend firms took a lot of lawyer time in 2011 and the firm is now looking forward to reaping the benefits.
“We are comfortable with our footprint. We will look at opportunities as they come along, but we are more focused on our existing footprint and getting the benefit of this merger,” said Prucino.
Developing the Asia offices is a priority, she said. “You can’t be a national firm without being an international firm,” Prucino said, explaining that many of Kilpatrick’s clients do business in China and other Asian countries.
The firm does China-related work for clients including Lowe’s, Oxford Industries, Neusoft Corp. and Semiconductor Manufacturing International China.
Kilpatrick launched an office in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, in 2008, focused on construction litigation, and closed its London office, leaving it with a Stockholm office in Europe. Also that year, the firm almost doubled the size of its Washington office with the acquisition of Murphy, Muldoon & Aguggia. The Washington office has about 75 lawyers now and the New York office has grown to about 40 lawyers.
When asked his plans for the future, Aguggia said Kilpatrick has considered opening a Los Angeles office to expand its West Coast presence but cautioned that he does not want growth to happen at the expense of the firm’s culture.
“Growth can be an impediment if you’re not careful,” he said. “We want to be in the geographic and practice areas that our clients want us to be in, but we don’t want to veer off course and lose the culture we have. We want to put our clients first and enjoy being lawyers at the firm.”
WESTMORELAND MOVES ON
Land-use and zoning lawyer Carl Westmoreland has left Seyfarth Shaw for a partnership at Morris Manning & Martin.
Westmoreland said he’s worked with Morris Manning lawyers for years and was attracted to the firm because of its strong, local focus on real estate. “Morris Manning certainly has more of a real estate identity than probably anyone else in town at this point and it is clearly an Atlanta firm as opposed to a national firm,” he said.
“Seyfarth is a wonderful and terrifically well-managed firm, but it is a national firm and its DNA is not principally real estate, even though they have an excellent real estate group there.”
Westmoreland joined Morris Manning & Martin’s real estate practice on June 1. He said that for the type of work he does — representing developers on local projects — a non-national firm makes more sense. “Things are different for people in 2012 than in 2007,” he said.
Westmoreland joined Seyfarth, based in Chicago, in 2007 from Powell Goldstein, which was acquired by St. Louis-based Bryan Cave in 2009.
He said he’s doing land-use work for OliverMcMillan on the Streets of Buckhead project, which the San Diego company took over from local developer Ben Carter, who’d been Westmoreland’s client.
He’s representing Camden Property Trust in its redevelopment of the old Paces Apartments in Buckhead, located on East Andrews Drive between West Paces Ferry and Roswell Roads, and is handling zoning work for the redevelopment of Colonial Homes Apartments, also in Buckhead, for higher-density residential housing.
He’s representing the Georgia Tech Foundation in its effort to tear down the back two-thirds of the historic Crum & Forster building at 771 Spring St. N.W. in Midtown, leaving only the façade, so it can build a data center and office building. So far, the City of Atlanta has denied a demolition permit.
Westmoreland also handled zoning for the Atlantic Station project, in which Morris Manning was involved.
Michael Kline has joined intellectual property firm Woodcock Washburn as a partner. Kline was senior patent counsel at The Coca-Cola Company.
Family law firm Warner, Bates & McGough has changed its name to Warner, Bates, McGough & McGinnis, after James McGinnis joined the firm in May as a partner from McGinnis & Chambers, along with an associate and support staff.
Barrett & Farahany is hosting a wine-tasting and silent auction on June 9 to raise money for a community center in Haiti. The project will provide a school, a church, a job-training facility and medical center to residents of the village of Vialet.
Amanda Farahany and Ben Barrett have visited Haiti to do volunteer work and are hoping to raise $50,000 to build the community center through Food for the Poor. They are partnering with pH Wine Merchant, located at 200 Peachtree Hills Ave. N.E., for the wine tasting, which will be from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday.
The wine purveyor will be pouring Champagne, Grand Cru Burgundy, Barolo, Barbaresco, Top Rioja, Ribera del Duero, Cote Rotie and Hermitage and providing heavy hors d’oeuvres. The minimum donation is $50. RSVP to Anthony Yambor at Anthony@phwinemerchant.com.