The attorney exodus from LeClairRyan continues. A group of intellectual property lawyers in Rochester, New York, is poised to launch a new office for Pepper Hamilton, while a group in Williamsburg, Virginia, is planning a move to Gordon Rees Scully Mansukhani.
LeClairRyan, acknowledging the departures, said the firm is going through changes that are uncomfortable for some, but will ultimately make the firm stronger.
A spokesman for Pepper Hamilton on Friday confirmed the addition of five IP lawyers from LeClairRyan, including partners Michael Goldman, Gunnar Leinberg and Andrew Zappia, as well as Edwin Merkel and Tate Tischner, who will join as of counsel.
Pepper Hamilton also confirmed that it will be opening a Rochester office as a result of the additions. The new office will be the Philadelphia-based firm’s second location in New York and its 14th nationwide.
The five-lawyer IP team was part of a 15-lawyer group that joined LeClairRyan from Nixon Peabody in 2011, with Zappia leading LeClairRyan’s operations in Rochester.
And, on Thursday, four lawyers from LeClairRyan’s Williamsburg office announced that they will be joining Gordon Rees in February. They include the co-head of LeClairRyan’s retail industry team, Susan Childers North, and estate and trust litigation practice group leader William Sleeth.
Elizabeth Acee, head of LeClairRyan’s litigation department, said in an interview Friday that even with the recent departure of the Rochester IP group, LeClairRyan’s IP practice remains strong. She noted the firm’s offices in Alexandria and Richmond, Virginia, and its three offices in California. She also said the firm remains committed to growth and recruitment in major markets.
Last year LeClairRyan saw 42 partners—nearly 20 percent of its equity partnership—leave the firm, according to data compiled by ALM Intelligence. So far in 2019, the firm has already lost 20 partners in less than a month.
“In 2018, while we saw attrition, we added 21 new partners in 10 different offices and I fully expect that we will better than double that in 2019,” Acee said.
In early January, the firm lost an 18-lawyer group in Boston, including 13 partners, to Atlanta-based Freeman Mathis & Gary. A week later, four attorneys, including two partners, from the firm’s Richmond, Virginia, office made the jump to Whiteford Taylor & Preston. Vern Inge, the managing partner of Whiteford Taylor’s Richmond office, left LeClairRyan last year.
LeClairRyan saw its gross revenue fall from $163 million in 2015 to $142 million in 2017, according to Am Law 200 figures, a decline of 13 percent. The firm has not yet reported its 2018 financial results.
But, Acee said, “It is not accurate to say that we don’t expect the firm to be in existence in 2019 because we think we’re building law firm 2.0 and we’ll be stronger,” referring the firm’s newest venture with alternative legal services provider UnitedLex Corp.
In June, LeClairRyan partnered with UnitedLex to launch ULX Partners LLC, which outsources nonlegal operations for law firms for a minority equity stake in the venture. As a result, more than 300 LeClairRyan employees joined the new venture.
This type of venture creates a fairly significant level of change, and that level of change is difficult and uncomfortable for some lawyers, Acee said.
“That’s OK and we understand that but we are very, very committed to the vision and we’re very committed to changing the firm’s business model,” she said.
Lizzy McLellan contributed to this report.