Fred Lee (left)and Dave Orlowski, Drew Eckl Farnham. (Courtesy photos) Fred Lee (left)and Dave Orlowski, Drew Eckl Farnham. (Courtesy photos)

Drew Eckl & Farnham has opened an office in Albany—its first outside its Atlanta headquarters since establishing a Brunswick outpost in 1998.

Fred Lee and Dave Orlowski have merged their Albany firm, Lee Orlowski, with Drew Eckl, joining as partners along with five staff effective March 1.

Unlike other large Atlanta-based litigation firms, Drew Eckl has not pursued a strategy of expanding its footprint into other Southeastern cities.

“We haven’t been one of those firms that has pursued growth for growth’s sake,” said Drew Eckl’s managing partner, Joe Chancey. He added that Drew Eckl has grown significantly, to about 115 lawyers overall (including the three lawyers in Brunswick), while sticking to its Atlanta base.

“It’s really about the lawyers down there and our familiarity with them and their practices,” Chancey said, adding that he and Lee are old college friends from Mercer University. “I’ve known Fred since 1978 when we were on the same freshman hall at Mercer—and we played intramurals together. He’s a lifelong friend.”

Chancey said he started talking with the Albany lawyers a few months ago, and the deal made sense. “It’s a good fit as to practices and geographically,” he said.

Lee has a health care-focused litigation practice, representing Albany’s Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital and other hospitals in southwest Georgia in medical-malpractice defense cases and other matters. He also is certified as a mediator.

Orlowski has a transactional and business litigation practice. A former vice president of HeritageBank of the South’s legal department, he represents local banks and lending institutions as well as the city of Albany. He also represents creditors in bankruptcy actions.

It’s too soon to say whether Drew Eckl will add more lawyers in Albany, Chancey said. “We would like to expand, but we have no specific plans yet.”

Drew Eckl primarily practices in Georgia, Chancey said. “We do quite a bit of work south of Macon in southeast and southwest Georgia, as well as north of Atlanta,” he said. The firm does some work outside of the state, he added, but “Georgia is absolutely the keystone for us.”

Establishing the Albany office does not signal a strategy shift for Drew Eckl toward opening lots more offices around the state, Chancey said.

“I don’t think we are going to change our core philosophy. I do not envision that we will put a priority on growing geographically just for sake of it,” he said. “But we are open to good opportunities that are a good fit, similar to this, in other locations.”

Drew Eckl’s Albany office is located at 1604 W. Third Ave.