A three-partner team of Atlanta tech and data security lawyers John Hutchins, Chris Wiech and Janine Anthony Bowen have joined Baker & Hostetler, departing the local LeClairRyan outpost they started three years ago.
With no lawyers left in Atlanta, LeClairRyan appears to be closing its office in the city. The firm did not respond to several requests for comment.
“It was a great opportunity that was almost literally right in front of us,” Hutchins said of the move to Baker, explaining that the firms shared the same Midtown building at 1170 Peachtree St., N.W. The trio handles tech transactions, data protection and compliance, cybersecurity and data breach litigation.
Baker & Hostetler has built “a strong brand in privacy and data security” that is nationally known, Hutchins said. The firm has represented a number of companies in data breach litigation.
Ted Kobus III, who leads Baker’s privacy and data protection practice, said in a statement that Hutchins, Wiech and Bowen will buttress the roughly 900-lawyer firm’s core team of 55 cybersecurity lawyers. The firm’s cybersecurity clientele ranges from Fortune 500 companies to smaller businesses, health systems, universities, tech companies and government entities.
The three knew a number of partners in Baker’s local office, Hutchins said, from practicing with them at McKenna Long & Aldridge. “Culturally, and in terms of the practice area opportunity, it all made sense,” Hutchins said.
Baker& Hostetler landed a group of 32 lawyers from McKenna ahead of that firm’s mid-2015 merger with Dentons, which expanded Cleveland-based Baker’s Atlanta office—until then focused on intellectual property—to about 53 attorneys at the time.
With the addition of the three tech and data privacy partners, the Atlanta office has grown to 68 lawyers. Hutchins said the team is bringing clients with them from LeClairRyan, but he declined to name them.
“Technology is omnipresent for businesses of all sizes and Janine, John and Chris provide the transactional and litigation experience that our clients will find invaluable,” said Joann Gallagher Jones, Baker & Hostetler’s local managing partner, in a statement.
Hutchins, Wiech and Bowen were partners at McKenna until 2004, when Hutchins and Wiech, who are both litigators, went to Troutman Sanders. When Hutchins, an experienced trial lawyer, started a privacy law practice for Troutman in 2005, it was still a somewhat niche practice. Now it’s become mainstream. “Everyone needs it,” he said.
At the beginning of 2015, the pair left Troutman to open the Atlanta office for LeClairRyan and a few months later recruited Bowen, who handles tech transactions from her own firm, which she had started in 2010. That gave the office three partners and an associate.
But the Atlanta lateral partner market is “a very competitive landscape,” Hutchins said. “There are some firms that have made a brand for themselves in the cybersecurity space—and Baker is definitely one of those firms.”
Gary LeClair and Dennis Ryan left Hunton & Williams in Virginia to found LeClairRyan in 1988. The firm now has 315 lawyers in 25 offices—down from 380 when Hutchins and Wiech opened the Atlanta office three years ago.
“They’re great people. It’s a first-generation law firm with a great future,” Hutchins said of LeClairRyan.