Roger Mansukhani and Miles Scully
Roger Mansukhani and Miles Scully ()

In an era when many large firms have shortened their monikers, Gordon & Rees added two new name partners to its shingle earlier this year to become Gordon Rees Scully Mansukhani.

Miles Scully, one of those partners, told The Am Law Daily in an interview Thursday that the decision to give top billing to him and fellow senior litigation partner Roger Mansukhani—a top rainmaker at the firm—started as a means of “internal recognition” for those who have helped Gordon Rees grow as it prepares to celebrate its 40th anniversary in September.

“Firms our size almost never change their name unless it’s to go smaller,” says Scully, a San Diego-based trial lawyer and assistant managing partner at Gordon Rees. “And a lot of those firms have portraits on the wall of old, gray-haired [name partners], while I’m 51 and Roger is 46. I think we might be two of the youngest name partners in The Am Law 200.”

In recent years, several Am Law 200 firms such as Locke Lord, Polsinelli and Squire Sanders have moved to tighten up the number of names appearing on their shingle, which makes Gordon Rees’ decision to lengthen its name all the more unusual.

Gordon Rees made headlines earlier this week when it sued New York Yankees star Alex Rodriguez for payment on $380,000 in outstanding legal fees earned by a partner whose solo shop it absorbed two years ago. The firm listed on the civil complaint filed in New York state court was Gordon Rees Scully Mansukhani—a name change that went largely unnoticed when it was first unveiled in January.

Scully, who effectively runs Gordon Rees along with firmwide managing partner Dion Cominos in San Francisco, doesn’t have much to say about the firm’s litigation with its former client, who is currently suspended by Major League Baseball until next season because of his alleged use of performance-enhancing substances. The 13-page civil complaint claims Rodriguez owes $380,058.91 in fees incurred by Gordon & Rees since the firm first began representing him in MLB’s Biogenesis investigation in May 2013.

The Am Law Daily has previously reported on the “all-star” legal team assembled by Rodriguez—one that includes Reed Smith and New York’s Tacopina, Seigel & Turano—to fight a potential suspension in the Biogenesis matter. An arbitrator eventually ruled against Rodriguez, and he abandoned his litigation battle earlier this year. (Rodriguez dropped another suit against the Yankees and a team doctor in June.)

Gordon Rees’ complaint against Rodriguez states that the firm agreed to an hourly rate of $400 for partners and between $225 and $375 for associates, “a fraction of the rates charged by other attorneys Mr. Rodriguez retained in connection with his suspension.” The firm claims it was specifically hired because of prominent sports lawyer Wm. David Cornwell Sr. and his expertise in defending against performance-enhancing drug suspensions.

Cornwell—known for his high-profile representations of Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberg, former Miami Dolphins offensive lineman Jonathan Martin, Milwaukee Brewers star Ryan Braun and, of course, Rodriguez—came to Gordon Rees in 2012, when the firm absorbed his solo shop a year after opening an office in Atlanta. Gordon Rees’ complaint against Rodriguez includes a sworn statement by Cornwell, who remains a partner in the firm’s sports, media and entertainment practice in Atlanta and also serves as executive director of the NFL Coaches Association.

Peter Siachos, a litigation partner in Gordon Rees’ New York office who joined the firm last year, is representing the firm in its dispute with Rodriguez. Gordon Rees issued a statement from Scully about the firm’s suit against the onetime slick-fielding shortstop, and when pressed on the matter Thursday by The Am Law Daily, he said that “hopefully cooler heads will prevail” and both sides will be able to find common ground.

The issue of fees is one Scully is normally happy to address, as he believes that the U.S. legal services market in general is one that increasingly plays to the strengths of Gordon Rees. “General counsel are facing tremendous pressure to pay reasonable rates, and unlike some of our competitors, that’s something we can do,” he says. “I really think the market is coming to us in that regard.”

Despite the press clippings that Gordon Rees’ sports group generates—Scully coyly notes that in another two to three weeks the firm will be able to go public with another high-profile athletic representation—it generally lags behind the firm’s other less sexy practice areas. Scully says the firm’s top areas of expertise are business litigation, labor and employment, environmental, toxic torts, real estate, construction and corporate.

Gordon Rees saw gross revenue rise nearly 10 percent in 2013, to $225.5 million, as profits per partner dipped slightly to $720,000 and revenue per lawyer increased 4.4 percent, to $470,000, according to the most recent Am Law 200 financial data.

At the time Scully took the helm of Gordon Rees’ San Diego office back in 1999, the big California firm making waves in the legal market was Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison. Scully, who now serves on Gordon Rees’ finance and executive committees, says his firm made a conscious decision to try to follow Brobeck’s rapid growth plan without some of the same pitfalls that ultimately caused the latter to implode. By 2005, Gordon Rees had a national strategic growth plan in place that eschewed pursuing a merger in favor of a spate of office openings across the country.

Within the past five years, Gordon Rees has headed to Denver (2007); Chicago (2008); Miami (2009); Atlanta, Austin and Hartford (2011); Carlsbad, Calif., Pittsburgh, Rapid City, S.D., St. Louis and Washington, D.C. (2012); Philadelphia and Raleigh (2013); and Oakland, where in March the firm established a second Bay Area outpost to cut real estate costs, according to a story at the time by sibling publication The Recorder.

Stuart Gordon and Donald Rees, two litigators who continue to practice out of Gordon Rees’ headquarters in San Francisco, cofounded the firm as an insurance defense shop in 1974. When Scully began his legal career at the firm nearly 26 years ago, he says, Gordon Rees had only had about 40 lawyers. In 1999 Scully became head of the San Diego office, which today has roughly 80 attorneys, making it the second-largest firm in the city, one of 31 U.S. outposts where the now 550-lawyer Gordon Rees has a presence.

As for the firm’s new name, Scully says that so far Gordon Rees has resisted rolling out a full-fledged rebranding campaign—another reason why the change went largely unnoticed earlier this year—until after the firm celebrates its 40th anniversary at its annual partners’ retreat in September. Don Rees and Stu Gordon, the firm’s namesakes, will be both honored at the event in Las Vegas. Gordon Rees also plans to hold its first-ever clients’ conference next January in New York.