When Regina S. Molden left Alston & Bird almost a year ago to start her own firm with four other big-firm refugees, she was fulfilling a long-held dream.

Molden, a former associate in Alston’s securities litigation group, billed the firm, Molden Holley Fergusson Thompson & Heard, as Atlanta’s first African-American firm devoted exclusively to high-end corporate work. The idea was that Molden, the firm’s managing partner, would spend the bulk of her time on business development while her four partners focused on the legal work.