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Akerman has opened an office in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and has expanded its Atlanta location with two corporate partners as the firm looks to set up a full-service location in Georgia.

Former Dentons partners Bill Ide and Amanda Leech have joined Akerman’s corporate M&A practice in Atlanta, and former Kilpatrick Townsend partner Paul Foley will lead the firm’s new Winston-Salem office.

Before joining Dentons, Ide was general counsel of agricultural giant Monsanto and served as president of the American Bar Association in 1993. Leech, who focuses her practice on general corporate counseling of both privately held and public companies, was promoted to partner at Dentons last year. The duo has represented numerous large corporations and boards of directors in merger and acquisitions, general corporate governance and compliance, and board risk management reviews.

Foley, who opens Akerman’s Winston-Salem office with two associates, was hired as chair of Akerman’s investment management group. He focuses his practice on advising funds on investments, compliance and securities law.

Kilpatrick said of Foley’s departure that they “wish Paul well.” Dentons did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the departures of Ide and Leech.

Akerman managing partner Scott Meyers said the hires were driven primarily by client demand and laid out two distinct plans for each office.

Andrew Smulian, the firm’s chairman and CEO, said in a statement that Atlanta is home to a broad range of sectors that will benefit from Akerman’s extensive capabilities across the United States and Latin America. “We expect the office to grow quickly in the years ahead, both in size and service offerings,” he said.

The Atlanta office is being built in the mold of similar expansions in Chicago and Texas, Meyers explained. Akerman hopes to expand the office — which opened with three health care partners in September 2018 — into a full-service outpost. The firm first opened its Chicago office in 2014 with eight attorneys. The head count there has since grown to 50.

“Atlanta has a lot in common with cities like Chicago, Houston and Los Angeles,” Meyers said. “It is an international city where legal services have to be both international and local.”

The firm has more modest plans for Winston-Salem’s smaller market. Although Meyers would not disclose specific clients, Foley will work with Akerman’s middle-market funds clients. Plans for the office do not involve the kind of growth expected in Atlanta, but Meyers said expansion isn’t out of the question.

“If we see additional opportunities in the city, there’s no reason we wouldn’t take advantage of that,” he said.

The expansions in Atlanta and Winston-Salem fit within the framework of Akerman’s overall plans in moving past its historical Florida-only reputation, Meyers said. In recent years, the firm has established offices in Austin, Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, New Orleans and San Antonio. The Winston-Salem office marks the firm’s 25th location overall.

The firm’s second-largest office is in New York, where it employs about 120 attorneys. Akerman also boasts 60 attorneys across four offices in Texas. And the Los Angeles location has tripled over the past four years to 40.

“Growth continues to be on the front of the mind,” Meyers said.

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