Terry O. Brantley of Swift Currie McGhee & Hiers. (Photo: John Disney/ALM)

Swift, Currie, McGhee & Hiers has added its 25th lawyer so far this year, continuing an expansion push that has been in the works for a while.

Lauren Woodrick is hire No. 25. She joined as an associate after serving as a staff attorney for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit and then for Judge Stanley Marcus.

Woodrick’s addition follows seven other new associate hires since April. They are: Kevan Dorsey from Coles Barton; Sean Farrell from Arnett Law Group in Chicago; Jordan Mahoney from Burke Law Group; Benjamin McClure from Holloway Law Group; Alexander McDonald from Downey & Cleveland; Victoria Shaw, also from Downey & Cleveland; and Winter Wheeler from Carlock Copeland & Stair.

The defense litigation firm is up to 140 lawyers with the latest spate of associate hires, making it Atlanta’s largest firm focused solely on litigation.

After 16 hires for all of 2017, the faster pace of additions started at the beginning of the year when Swift Currie brought on a 10-lawyer group led by partners William Casey Jr. and Erica Morton from Marietta’s Hicks, Casey & Morton and their former partner Richie Foster from Carlock Copeland.

Managing partner Terry Brantley said that, in part because of the lateral partner additions, Swift Currie has been able to gain work for new clients and win more from existing clients.

“We have made it a huge emphasis to try and educate clients and help in ways we haven’t previously,” Brantley said.

Atlanta is a hotly competitive market for litigation defense, with a number of established firms, including Swift Currie, and new firms moving in all the time. Swift Currie is known for its workers’ compensation defense practice, thanks to two co-founders, James Hiers Jr. and Robert Potter, who were pioneers in that area, but it handles the gamut of litigation.

“We can handle just about any litigation matter,” Brantley said. “The challenge is education—letting clients know how we can help in other areas.”

Brantley, who handles products and premises liability matters as well as other tort disputes, said he was elected managing partner in 2016 with the mandate of expanding the firm’s market position. After his election, he said, Swift Currie spent about a year getting ready for expansion, taking on more office space and setting up a committee to look for good lateral opportunities.

Making sure Swift Currie is top of mind for clients—and an attractive platform for laterals—is important in this crowded market, Brantley said, noting that many large clients, such as national insurance companies, are still trying to reduce the number of firms they’re using.

Swift Currie’s national clients include State Farm, Travelers and Zurich, as well as self-insured companies such as Fiat Chrysler Automotive, Caterpillar and Lowes.

The recent expansion is “part of a conscious effort of raising our profile in the community,” he said, adding that the firm has been encouraging its lawyers to “write, speak and get involved in the community.”

“Our people have taken on more publishing and speaking engagements and been visiting more clients in the last 12 months,” he said. “I think it’s beginning to pay off as far as actual file receipts and referrals from clients.”

Some local litigation firms have elected to expand by adding offices throughout the Southeast or even nationally. But Swift Currie’s 140 lawyers are still based in Atlanta, with one newish outpost in Birmingham.

The Atlanta airport means they can get anywhere in the Southeast in two hours, Brantley said. “Being in Atlanta makes it extremely convenient to get to clients,” he said.

Outside Atlanta, the firm uses local counsel for more routine activities, he added, and “we step in for the more sophisticated stuff.”

Many of the firm’s lawyers are licensed in adjacent states to Georgia, including Brantley, who is a member of the South Carolina bar. “I can get to South Carolina quicker than an Atlanta lawyer can get to Valdosta,” he said.

BRIEFLY

Parker, Hudson, Rainer & Dobbs has recruited Emily Shingler from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia as counsel on its health care team. Shingler led several False Claims Act investigations as an assistant U.S. attorney in the civil division during her five-year tenure with the Department of Justice.

“Her experience representing the United States in health care investigations will enhance our ability to assist clients navigating complex compliance and regulatory matters,” said Jon Rue, who co-leads Parker Hudson’s health care practice. “More and more, our clients are seeking advice in this area,” he added.


Bradley Strawn has left Littler Mendelson, where he’d been a shareholder for almost 13 years, to become chief operating officer and executive vice president for insurance brokerage McGriff, Seibels & Williams. In his new position, he leads the operations of McGriff’s Atlanta office.


Butler Snow has recruited Balch & Bingham partner E. Righton J. Lewis to the firm’s liability, toxic tort and environmental litigation practice in Atlanta. Lewis has defended product manufacturers in wrongful death and personal injury cases, as well as electric utilities in personal injury and property damage cases from contact with high-voltage lines, equipment and electrical fires. Lewis is a 2008 graduate of the University of Georgia School of Law and a native of Savannah.


Eversheds Sutherland has recruited Jed Rogers for its federal and international tax practice as counsel from the Atlanta office of Ernst & Young, where he was senior manager for international tax services. Rogers practices federal tax law with experience in cross-border transactions. He has also served as senior tax attorney for NCR Corp. and tax counsel for IBM. Rogers holds an LL.M. in tax from Boston University School of Law. With his hire, Eversheds Sutherland has more than 100 lawyers in its tax practice.


Michael Ward has joined Culhane Meadows as a partner from his own firm. A real estate attorney, Ward has also practiced at firms including Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough and served as general counsel of Atlanta construction and real estate firm H.J. Russell & Co.


Sarah Dunbacher has joined FisherBroyles as a partner from Drew Eckl & Farnham. A business and contracts litigator, Dunbacher primarily handles disputes between hospitals and patients over billing and reimbursement.


Womble Bond Dickinson has hired associate Kerra Killingsworth Hicks from Balch & Bingham’s Birmingham office. Hicks handles mass torts and product liability litigation with particular experience in construction disputes. She represents electric utility companies in property damage and personal injury claims. Hicks earned a law degree in 2013 from Samford University.


Miller & Martin has added Laura DiBiase as an associate in its bankruptcy and creditors’ rights group. DiBiase clerked for Judge James Sacca of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Georgia after earning a law degree from Mercer University School of Law in 2016.