Riley Safer Holmes & Cancila, a firm formed last year by a breakaway group of former Schiff Hardin partners, has hired nearly a dozen lawyers led by Bryan Cave’s Chicago managing partner Joseph McCoy.
Of the 11 new recruits announced Thursday by Riley Safer, all but two are African American. One of them is Gregory Curtner, the former head of the antitrust, trade regulations and sports practice at Schiff Hardin, and a go-to outside lawyer for the National Collegiate Athletic Association, which has turned to Curtner to handle litigation with former college athletes.
McCoy, who will lead Riley Safer’s business transactions practice, is joined by Bryan Cave commercial litigation partners Rodney Perry and Mariangela Seale and five other lawyers from the St. Louis-based Am Law 100 firm. Riley Safer’s leaders praised the firm’s new hires for their client expertise and diverse backgrounds.
“We can now service our clients around the entire business and that’s important, and not only can we do that, but we can do that with a truly diverse team so it’s just the cherry on the ice cream,” said Patricia Brown Holmes, one of Riley Safer’s founding partners and a former co-head of the compliance and internal investigations practice at Schiff Hardin.
Riley Safer was formed in January 2016 after the departure of 22 partners, including 14 equity partners, from Schiff Hardin, which saw its gross revenue plummet last year as a result. Led by former Schiff Hardin chairman Robert Riley, its former managing partner Ronald Safer and partners Holmes and Joseph Cancila Jr., Riley Safer quickly grew, setting up offices in New York and San Francisco and increasing its ranks to about 40 lawyers across its three offices.
Despite this growth, Holmes said Riley Safer was missing a commercial practice, something necessary to grow the firm from a mid-sized outfit into a large, national firm.
“We started off as what you might consider definitely a boutique firm [and] weren’t really well-rounded in terms of the ability to provide services outside of the litigation space,” Holmes said.
But with the addition of McCoy’s team from Bryan Cave, Holmes noted that Riley Safer can now do the real estate transactions, M&A deals and commercial contracts that clients often demand of more general practice firms.
“Now, we have that transactional piece,” said Holmes, a retired associate judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County. “It makes us a full scale firm in terms of services.”
The opportunity to build a business transactions practice from the ground up was something that McCoy couldn’t pass up.
“I just think it was time,” McCoy said of his move to Riley Safer. “Even though I wasn’t here on day one, we’re still on the front of getting to start [it], having a whiteboard to build the transactions practice and to be a value add to the firm.”
McCoy, a real estate transactions expert, joined Bryan Cave in 2012 after four years at Perkins Coie in the Windy City.
The addition of the 11 lawyers by Riley Safer is the firm’s single-largest expansion since its inception, a move that will bring its head count to 66 by the end of August. But the firm will soon see of counsel Robert Rivkin depart, as he prepares to become deputy mayor of Chicago.
Rivkin previously served as general counsel at the U.S. Department of Transportation and as vice president and general counsel at Delta Air Lines Inc.