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Stephen Leach and Wayne Travell left the partnership at Venable, Baetjer and Howard to form their own firm, Leach Travell, in McLean, Va., on Jan. 1. Leach, 52, specializes in creditors’ rights and bankruptcy, while Travell, 47, practices commercial litigation and business dispute resolution. Both practice in the state and federal courts in the District, Virginia, and Maryland. Why did you decide to start your own practice? Although we had had rewarding practices at our prior firm, Venable, Baetjer and Howard in its Tysons Corner office, we were each looking for a new challenge that would allow us to continue to pursue our areas of expertise, but which would give us greater control and personal freedom. Having our own firm has provided us with independence in client selection and has freed us from the client conflicts that inevitably arise in larger firms. Over the past 20-plus years, we have each been part of small, medium, and large firms and have been involved in practice and firm management. We have worked together as partners for more than a decade. We have complementary practice-area expertise, and similar values, work ethics, and expectations. We felt that the time was right for us to try managing our own firm. Tell us about your clients. Our clients are drawn principally from the D.C. metropolitan region and represent a variety of manufacturing and service industries. We typically represent privately held enterprises and individuals, although we do represent a few large companies and institutions. Currently, Steve is representing creditors involved in several large bankruptcies, including U.S. Air, WorldCom, and PSINet, as well as individual debtors in a number of cases. Wayne is representing clients involved in the printing industry, medical supply distribution, municipal construction, property management and real estate, hightech and communications, and estate and fiduciary disputes. If there is a unifying theme in the type of matters we handle, it is that we assist owners and individuals in solving business problems and disputes. Talk about business development: Where do you find new clients? Our new clients are typically referrals from other lawyers and satisfied clients. While working at full-service firms overStephen Leach Wayne Travell the years, we developed trusted relationships with business and transactional lawyers both inside and outside our firms. When our partners and colleagues moved on to other firms and business opportunities, many continued to rely on us for dispute resolution. As a litigation and bankruptcy boutique, we continue to provide dispute representations, but offer several advantages over our prior circumstances: first, because we are experienced and efficient, the client gets great value for the fees it spend with us; second, the business or transactional lawyer who refers a dispute matter to us does not have to worry that the client will choose to remain with Leach Travell for other business or transactional legal services because we focus exclusively on creditors’ rights, bankruptcy and litigation; third, we do not have to turn down many representations because of client conflicts; fourth, because our services are specialized, we are a good source for referrals of transactional work to other lawyers. Our former partners and colleagues know and trust us and are now at many of the region’s largest firms. We find that Leach Travell offers our colleagues at larger firms a reliable source for providing large-firm quality legal services to its best clients when conflicts prevent that work from being done in-house or when the representation is simply too small for a large firm or is otherwise not a good fit. Talk about metrics: How do you measure business success? At our own firm, it is up to us to determine how hard we work and how profitable we want to be. We are both accustomed to working very hard and like to stay busy. Our representations are typically billed on an hourly basis. Our primary goals are to provide high-quality legal service in an environment where we can control client intake and limit the number of client matters we are handling at any one time. In starting your own firm, what’s the biggest surprise you’ve encountered so far? Among the pleasant surprises is the overwhelming support and good wishes we have received from our colleagues and clients. To a person, they have wished us great success and many have backed that up by sending us work. Another pleasant surprise is how well the office and support systems have come together. We have invested in good people and the latest technology and have been rewarded by a fairly seamless transition. We have found that by investing in the appropriate software, we can replicate many of the support services we enjoyed at a large firm. It was something of a thrill to have the telephones ring for the first time, to get the first successful fax transmission or to get our first e-mail message and we have been able to practice law efficiently from our very first day. It was hard to appreciate beforehand how much effort, energy and expense is involved in putting together and running a law office. We have spent hours at the local office supply store debating the merits of one brand of mailing labels over another, and deciding how many paper clips or note pads we might need. We now appreciate what it means to be part of an organization where things like IT services, ordering toner for the printer, and making sure there is enough paper are all done by others. And when it was time to move our furniture from our old offices to our new location, we called the movers, took apart our office furniture at our old offices, met the movers on moving day, and reassembled the furniture when it arrived at our new address.

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