Hall Booth Smith has brought on recently retired New Jersey Superior Court Judge Raymond Reddin as a partner to launch an outpost in northern New Jersey near New York City—its first office outside the Southeast.
The office, which opens Monday in Saddle Brook, is one of two New Jersey offices that the litigation defense firm is opening. Drew Graham, who heads the litigation firm’s longterm care practice, has relocated to New Jersey from Atlanta and opened an HBS office in Jersey City.
Hall Booth is looking for additional lawyers to work out of either Saddle Brook or Jersey City, said John Hall, one of the firm’s founders.
The Atlanta-based litigation defense firm has grown at a rapid clip over the past decade, expanding to 225 lawyers. The New Jersey offices give it 17 locations in all.
But Hall said the expansion outside the Southeast into New Jersey is not a signal that Hall Booth is going national. “We do not have that model in mind,” he said, adding that the firm intends to expand organically to fit the needs of its lawyers and clients.
“We want to continue to grow as appropriate for our folks and others, but not with the idea of setting out to be a national firm,” he said. “Our growth is driven by client service and the satisfaction of our folks.”
“Most of those organic growth opportunities are going to come in the Southeast and East Coast region,” Hall added.
Hall Booth, which marks its 30th anniversary this year, added its first office outside Atlanta 20 years ago, in Tifton. Since then, it has steadily added five more Georgia offices, plus locations in Alabama, Tennessee, the Carolinas and Florida.
“We consider ourselves a ‘big’ small firm,” Hall said. Even though the litigation firm has expanded to more than 200 lawyers, he said, it’s still run with a high degree of transparency and a reliance on teamwork.
A number of Hall Booth lawyers have national practices, including Hall, who specializes in medical malpractice and other types of liability defense.
Graham, who is licensed in New York and New Jersey, was already doing a fair amount of trial work in New Jersey for hospitals, Hall said.
Hall himself finished up a three-week medical negligence trial in New Jersey in January, scoring a defense verdict for his surgeon client, and obtained his own New Jersey bar license last month as well.
Hall, Graham and several other Hall Booth lawyers regularly try cases in New York and New Jersey, often pro hac vice, so when Graham decided to move there for family reasons, the firm decided a New Jersey office made sense.
“If someone here wants to go to a place and we think it’s a good fit for clients and it makes sense economically, we are open to it,” Hall said, adding that the firm opened a Charleston office, which now has 15 lawyers, when partner Jack Gresh moved there.
Around the time Hall Booth was planning its Jersey City office, Reddin contacted Hall about potentially joining the firm.
Hall knew the New Jersey judge from trying a case before him three years ago. The case took longer than scheduled, he said, requiring a continuance on another trial for which he was scheduled in Alabama.
The Alabama judge insisted on speaking to Reddin on the phone to confirm that the trial had gone long, Hall said. “We joked that it was the reverse of ‘My Cousin Vinny.’’’
“I really enjoyed him and enjoyed the trial,” Hall said, and they stayed in touch.
Reddin is heading Hall Booth’s mediation practice and is also part of its active shooter practice, which Hall and Graham have been developing. They started advising a few hospital clients on safety preparedness in case of a shooter incident several years ago, Hall said, along with a security consultancy, and the practice developed from there—with six lawyers in it now.
Before becoming a judge 16 years ago, Reddin represented the Passaic County Police Academy and police officers, and he plans to return to police officer defense work. Earlier in his career, he was a criminal defense attorney.