Brian Stillwagon (left) and John Wymer of Thompson Hine, Atlanta. (Photo: John Disney/ALM)

Experienced labor and employment partners John Wymer III and Bryan Stillwagon have joined Thompson Hine from Colorado-based Sherman & Howard.

“They don’t add bench strength—they add what I like to call leadership strength,” said Thompson Hine’s Atlanta partner-in-charge, Tim McDonald. “They are frontline folks who are great problem-solvers for clients, and that’s what we look for.”

“Their clients rate them highly, and for me that’s the gold standard,” McDonald said, adding that their expertise in labor law was a “big plus” as Thompson Hine didn’t have any Atlanta practitioners in that area.

Wymer said the duo’s clients are a mix of local and national companies. He is the national labor counsel for Miller Brewing Co. and represents Oracle America.

Georgia clients include KIPP Metro Atlanta Schools, which has grown to nine charter schools locally, and Hughston Clinic in Columbus and Jack Hughston Memorial Hospital in Phenix City Alabama.

Their departure from Sherman & Howard marks the end of the 180-lawyer Colorado firm’s Atlanta outpost, which Wymer left Paul Hastings to launch in 2013, subsequently recruiting Stillwagon, then an associate, from Paul Hastings.

It was the first and only office for Sherman & Howard east of the Mississippi. The firm’s then-managing member, Michael Sanchez, told the Daily Report at the time that it opened the office because of its relationship with Wymer.

“We are incredibly grateful for our time in Atlanta, but after a yearlong strategic planning initiative, we have decided to double down on our growth strategies where we have market dominance—primarily in Colorado and Arizona,” said Sherman & Howard CEO Greg Densen in a statement. “I can’t think of two better professionals and partners in the practice of law, and I am confident that John and Bryan will thrive at Thompson Hine.”

Wymer said he’s known McDonald, who handles employment and employee benefit matters, for 20 years, from when Wymer was at King & Spalding and McDonald was at Rogers & Hardin. The two firms worked closely on labor and employment matters when multiple parties were involved, Wymer explained. “I have the greatest respect for Tim as a person and a lawyer.”

“I was exceptionally struck by the diversity at Thompson Hine, throughout the ranks and at the leadership levels,” Wymer added, in regard to women and lawyers of color. “It may sound weird to hear a 60-plus white guy saying that,” he said, but it’s an important value to him.

Stillwagon handles mostly employment law, including class and collective action defense, employee leave law advice and litigation and restrictive covenants. He said that when the duo was considering firms, they wanted one that could “help us deliver more value to clients that we could on our own. We’ve always prided ourselves on doing high quality work more efficiently than other firms.”

Thompson Hine’s six-year investment in a proprietary legal project management approach, SmartPaTH, was a draw, Stillwagon said.

“It provides a new layer of data analytics and transparency for clients, with more accurate flat fees and rate structures for litigation,” he said. “They can see what’s going on and what we’re doing, which is something in-house counsel are demanding, because they’re having their feet held to the fire by their own boards and management.”

Wymer and Stillwagon are both active in the Atlanta community. Wymer is vice president of the Morris Brown College Foundation and a past board chair for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metro Atlanta.

Stillwagon is on the advisory board of the Pro Bono Partnership of Atlanta and does pro bono legal work through the group for local nonprofits. He’s also the executive board chair for the Dunwoody Nature Center and a church council member for Dunwoody United Methodist Church.

With Wymer and Stillwagon, Thompson Hine’s Atlanta office has 30 lawyers. Last year it added another employment lawyer, Leah Singleton, who handles ERISA matters, as counsel from Hall Benefits Law, and public finance practitioner Sherman Golden as senior counsel from Seyfarth Shaw.