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Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, the nation’s third-largest labor and employment firm, announced on Wednesday that it would acquire a major Greenville, S.C.-based boutique. The 50 lawyers from labor and employment firm Haynsworth Baldwin Johnson & Greaves will bring Ogletree’s head count to 250. Ogletree’s managing partner, L. Gray Geddie Jr., said that 2004 revenue for the combined firm is estimated at $100 million — with $18.5 million of that coming from the Haynsworth Baldwin lawyers. The combined firm will be known as Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart. The union gives Ogletree new offices in Tampa, Fla., and in Charlotte and Greensboro, N.C., for a total of 21 offices nationwide. Haynsworth Baldwin’s other four offices are in cities where Ogletree already has lawyers: Greenville and Columbia, S.C.; Raleigh, N.C.; and Atlanta. Though the deal gives Ogletree a considerable boost in size, it doesn’t push the firm’s coverage any further outside of the Southeast. The top two labor firms in the nation, Littler Mendelson (roughly 375 lawyers in 28 offices, $165 million in revenue) and Jackson Lewis (356 lawyers in 20 offices; $133.5 million in revenue) both have a more extensive network of offices nationally. Stuart Newman, Atlanta managing partner for Jackson Lewis, said, “I don’t see at first blush a strategic advantage with client acquisition or representation. They’re not adding much new — and [they're] duplicating offices in the Carolinas.” Geddie acknowledged that the union doesn’t move the firm outside of its southeastern stronghold, but he said Ogletree will keep expanding. The firm wants to add offices in northern California, the Midwest and the Northeast. “Those are holes we need to fill in on the coverage map,” he said, as the firm continues its drive to become more national. Ogletree has steadily expanded both its head count and its geographic reach. Five years ago, the firm had 125 lawyers. Since then it has doubled in size, including the addition of 32 lawyers from firms acquired in 2003 in Los Angeles; Miami; Austin, Texas; and Morristown, N.J. GOAL: COAST-TO-COAST COVERAGE As national companies consolidate the number of firms they use, having coast-to-coast coverage is essential to staying on their shortlists. In the last year, Ogletree received 15 to 20 requests for proposals from national companies and obtained about five of those, Geddie said. “You’ve got to be national in scope to compete.” “We’re shooting for geographic diversity,” he added. “As larger clients narrow the list of firms that they use, specialty firms must get larger and offer more services and locations.” The firms will join operations Sept. 1, but the merger won’t take place legally until Jan. 1 because of legal and tax considerations. The firms wanted to merge to increase their size and coverage area, according to Geddie and J. Howard Daniel, managing partner of Haynsworth Baldwin. “The cultures are virtually identical,” said Daniel. “It was hard to come up with a reason why we shouldn’t do it.” He said that his firm’s board did not think staying independent made sense when weighed against the advantages of gaining 14 offices. “We have a lot of clients — big clients — who use us on a regional basis for employment and a national basis for labor. Many have indicated that they would use us in any space where we had an office,” he said. For Ogletree, Geddie said the additional locations plus the increase in size made it an attractive union. CLIENTS IN COMMON Also, during negotiations, the firms found that they shared some clients, including Sonoco Products Co., Michelin, Lockheed Martin Corp. and Fluor Daniels. Since both firms represent management, they haven’t found any client conflicts. “We don’t anticipate any problem with that,” said Daniel. “No client I talked to had a problem with the merger. They all saw it as a positive thing because it expands our depth.” Haynsworth Baldwin also brings several clients to the table: Flowers Industries, Gold Kist Inc., Perdue Farms Inc., Pilgrim’s Pride, Harris Teeter and a large number of hospitals, including three of the four largest hospitals in South Carolina, said Daniel. When the firms compared pie charts, they found that Ogletree did a higher percentage of labor work and Haynsworth Baldwin did a higher percentage of employment litigation, Daniel said. In other areas such as benefits and immigration, the two firms were comparable, he said. Haynsworth Baldwin brings stronger depth in health care, trucking and retail to the deal, while Ogletree has a more developed base in the manufacturing industry, Geddie said. FIRMS’ FOUNDERS WORKED TOGETHER The negotiations have been remarkably smooth because the two firms share strong cultural roots, said Geddie and Daniel. The founding partners from both firms practiced together at a small labor and employment boutique in Greenville in the early 1970s before branching off to form their own firms. In 1971, Frank Ogletree, Knox L. Haynsworth Jr., Homer L. Deakins Jr., James J. Baldwin, James Miles, Lewis T. Smoak and James Hamilton Stewart III all practiced together in Greenville. Haynsworth, Baldwin and Miles left to form their own firm in 1972; five years later, Ogletree, Deakins, Smoak and Stewart branched off to start another boutique. “In the negotiations, we found very few if any cultural differences,” said Geddie. “It’s been one of the smoothest mergers we’ve ever had.” In fact, the deal began as a friendly lunch in Greenville between Haynsworth Baldwin’s Daniel and Fred W. Suggs Jr., a partner with Ogletree. In the course of conversation, they talked about practicing law together. Later, Geddie and Daniel went to lunch and “one thing led to another and here we are,” said Geddie. Daniel said that many of the Greenville lawyers from the two firms already were friends. They’d go to the same charities or churches and end up in a corner chatting, he said. “We knew them socially, but just couldn’t talk about work because we competed. Now, we can talk about work,” he said.

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