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Steven D. Barnhart of Atlanta-based insurance defense firm Drew, Eckl & Farnham left no doubt about why he was leaving for plaintiffs work. “I have grown absolutely sick of my insurance defense practice,” says the departing partner. Barnhart says he’s not yet sure where he’ll go. He’ll leave all of his cases — 55 or 60, he says — with Drew Eckl. No associates will join him in his new career, he says. His departure comes less than a year after Barnhart returned to Drew Eckl. In 1989, Barnhart left the firm after almost five years to form Barnhart, O’Quinn & Williams, a civil litigation firm. That firm dissolved in 1998, and Barnhart started a seven-lawyer civil litigation outfit called Steven D. Barnhart & Associates. He returned to Drew Eckl last May with three associates: Burke A. Noble, Hix H. Green III and Michelle P. Badaruddin. Barnhart says running his own firm was “exhausting.” By bringing his practice to Drew Eckl, he says, he could avoid the administrative problems he faced at his own firm. Still, after 17 years practicing insurance defense, “what I discovered was that it did not eliminate my disdain” for the subject matter, Barnhart says. Also, he says Drew Eckl gave him a February deadline to accept an equity partnership position with the firm. Barnhart isn’t the first Drew Eckl attorney to tire of insurance defense work. J. Robb Cruser and William T. Mitchell left last April to form Cruser & Mitchell. The two agree that an opportunity to take plaintiffs’ cases is an added bonus to running their own firm. “We left Drew, Eckl & Farnham on good terms to be the captain of our own ship and to pursue a more balanced practice,” Cruser says. Mitchell adds that the six-lawyer firm can consider what he calls “cases on the other side.” He says, “We’re now willing to take a closer look at plaintiffs’ cases.” Partner Stephen W. Mooney left Drew Eckl in March 2000 to rejoin Smith, Currie & Hancock after leaving there in 1994. Mooney says he’s doing the same type of work — labor law and employment discrimination — as he was at Drew Eckl. “I left because it’s hard to develop a specialty practice within an insurance defense firm,” Mooney says. “The culture seems to promote gross billings over there as opposed to profitability.” Drew Eckl’s managing partner, W. Wray Eckl, says the firm now has about 83 attorneys, including 23 partners. Barnhart, he says, was “just burned out and has decided to try something new.” Eckl says he’s not worried about Barnhart’s departure. “The core of the more senior people have been here a very long time,” he says. And, he adds, “We still get good associates.” James N. Sadd left civil litigation firm Freeman & Hawkins (now Hawkins & Parnell) in 1991 to form Slappey & Sadd, a personal injury and workers’ compensation firm. Sadd says that he’s seen some defense lawyers “getting a little tired of insurance companies picking at their bills.” That might explain the departures from the insurance defense legal arena, Sadd says. As of last October, Drew Eckl had lost 31 of its 60 associates in two years. Also, it’s not uncommon for insurance adjusters to place restrictions on insurance defense lawyers, he says. The adjusters, he says, sometimes instruct lawyers on which experts to use and how to handle insurance litigation. According to the 2001 Martindale-Hubbell law directory, Drew Eckl’s clients include Acceptance Insurance Co., Atlantic Steel Industries, Colonial Penn Insurance Co., Cooper Tire & Rubber Co., Crawford & Co., Fireman’s Fund Insurance Co., Ford Motor Co., GEICO, General Motors Corp., Georgia-Pacific Corp., Liberty Mutual Insurance Co., Lithonia Lighting, Mohawk Industries, Reliance Insurance Co. and Safeco Insurance Co. BELLSOUTH AND KILPATRICK Attorneys in BellSouth’s corporate law department who are not licensed in Georgia now can provide pro bono services here. Later this month, the BellSouth lawyers will team with Kilpatrick Stockton attorneys on a pro bono grandparent adoption project. For three years, Kilpatrick and Atlanta Legal Aid Society lawyers have assisted grandparents and other relatives with adoption proceedings. Each BellSouth lawyer involved will be paired with a Kilpatrick attorney on each case. S. Kendall Butterworth, BellSouth litigation counsel, heads the company’s efforts with the grandparent project. She says corporate attorneys who aren’t licensed in Georgia are limited in their pro bono participation here. Even for pro bono projects, attorneys must have a Georgia license to represent a client in a civil proceeding. But all BellSouth lawyers in Atlanta can help with grandparent adoption proceedings, Butterworth says, as long as Kilpatrick lawyers supervise them. “This essentially helps those who aren’t licensed,” she says. “We can open the program to all BellSouth lawyers.” She adds that about 20 of the 93 BellSouth lawyers in Atlanta will participate. Historically, Butterworth says, BellSouth lawyers have volunteered on pro bono cases individually. But this is the first organized effort by the company’s entire law department. Kilpatrick Stockton is BellSouth’s primary outside counsel in Georgia, Butterworth says. Debra A. Segal, Kilpatrick’s full-time pro bono counsel, says grandparents and other relatives frequently take children into their custody when the natural parents are sick or unable to care for the children. Steven Gottlieb, executive director of Atlanta Legal Aid, says there are grandparents who take four or five children into their custody without formalizing the relationship. But by legally adopting the children, Gottlieb says, the grandparents can become eligible for adoption assistance. Gottlieb adds that Legal Aid intends to expand the grandparent project with Kilpatrick and BellSouth. He says the attorneys will help grandparents and other relatives draft wills to provide for the adopted children. Briefly … Emory University School of Law’s intellectual property moot court team won the national championship last weekend at the Saul Lefkowitz Moot Court Trademark Competition finals in Washington. Team members are second-year students Dawn M. Reinhardt and Hillery A. Rappoport and third-years Shawn N. Kalfus, Brian D. Porch and Scott M. Buser. The team also is the new national champion in the best oralist category and national runner-up in the best brief category. The competition included 63 teams from around the country. The University of Georgia School of Law won the annual Intrastate Moot Court Tournament held in Atlanta March 16-17. Two teams from each of Georgia’s four accredited law schools — UGA, Emory University School of Law, Georgia State University College of Law and Mercer University’s Walter F. George School of Law — competed at Emory. Both UGA teams made it to the sixth and final round of the competition and competed against each other in that round. One UGA team, consisting of second-year students Natalie S. Woodward, Eric E. Getty and Darius T. Pattillo, won the championship and was named best team. The second-place team — 2L’s Jeffrey S. Ward, Emily H. Hammond and C. Todd Hayes — received the best brief award. Ward was selected as the tournament’s best oralist. Third-year law students Kevin P. Weimer and Kwende B. Jones coached the teams. Carol Kessinger-Kuhn has joined Hunter Maclean and will work in the firm’s Savannah office. Kessinger-Kuhn will be of counsel to the firm’s alternative dispute resolution and litigation support groups. She was formerly an attorney with the Oklahoma City law firm of Crowe & Dunlevy. Hunter Maclean has more than 50 attorneys in Atlanta, Augusta and Savannah.

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