David Marple and Melissa Davis Strickland have each left established family law firms to start their own shops. Both lawyers—midway through their careers with four children apiece—said it was time to try going solo.
Marple left Davis Matthews & Quigley, a general-practice firm with a family law focus, to start the Marple Law Firm. Strickland left Levine Smith Snider & Wilson, which handles family law exclusively, to launch Strickland Family Law.
The two also happen to be opposing counsel on a divorce case; Marple is representing the wife, and Strickland is representing the husband. “In the family law community we all tend to know each other,” Marple said.
Marple, 46, spent almost 17 years at Davis Matthews before starting the Marple Law Firm in June. “You only live once,” said Marple. “I don’t want to look back on my life and wonder ‘what if?’”
He recalled a similar juncture when he was a freshman at Auburn University. A swimmer (50- and 100-meter freestyle), Marple wasn’t sure if he wanted to compete in college and started as a walk-on. “I swam for four years with no regrets,” he said.
Even so, he said leaving Davis Matthews was a bittersweet decision. “Everybody there is fantastic—they’re family,” Marple said.
Both Marple and Strickland have litigation backgrounds, which they said helps with more complex, high-stakes cases.
Marple said he’d planned to be a prosecutor in law school at Drake University, but after brief stints in the Cobb County Solicitor General’s office and the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office, he decided family law was more to his liking. He is board certified in family trial law by the National Board of Trial Advocacy and a fellow in the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers.
Strickland, 39, started out in the commercial litigation practice at Powell Goldstein in 2003. (The firm was absorbed by Bryan Cave in 2009.) “I got first-class litigation training from some of the best litigators in Atlanta,” she said. “But I wanted to practice with more of a human element—working with real people and real families.”
After adopting her first child in 2006, she joined family law boutique Kessler & Solomiany. She’d been at Levine Smith since 2015 and said their support and encouragement “has made [going solo] easier.”
With nine lawyers, Levine Smith, like Kessler & Solomiany and Davis Matthews, has one of the larger family law practices in town. Strickland said having her own shop will give her flexibility to work on cases that don’t fit that larger-firm model. “And I think it gives me better balance with my family,” she added.
“I can branch out as far as the cases I can take, I have some flexibility with my billable rate—and I can make it to soccer practice on time,” Strickland said.
Strickland and her ex-husband, Marietta plaintiffs lawyer Ryan Strickland, adopted a boy and then a girl from Guatemala, who are now 11 and 10, then unexpectedly had twins—another boy and girl, both 9.
“As a divorced mother, I certainly understand my clients,” Strickland said, adding that her ex-husband is “a wonderful dad, so I’m able to practice what I preach about co-parenting.”
Marple Law Firm is in Midtown at One Atlantic Center, 1201 West Peachtree St. Strickland Family Law is in Buckhead at 3340 Peachtree Road.
Employment lawyer Martin Heller has joined Fisher & Phillips as counsel from Freeman Mathis & Gary, where he represented public and private sector employers in litigation including wage and hour and discrimination claims and contracts.
Weinberg Wheeler Hudgins Gunn & Dial has added associate Mercedes Ordonez to its litigation team, handling construction, health care, professional liability and transportation matters. Ordonez, a 2016 graduate of Baylor University School of Law, was a summer associate at Weinberg Wheeler last year.
Sally Akins of Savannah firm Ellis, Painter, Ratterree & Adams became the new president of the Georgia Defense Lawyers Association at its 50th Annual Meeting, held last month at The Breakers in West Palm Beach, Florida. Hall McKinley III of Drew Eckl & Farnham is president-elect; David Nelson of Macon’s Chambless, Higdon, Richardson, Katz & Griggs is treasurer, and Jeffrey Ward of Drew Eckl & Farnham‘s Brunswick office is secretary.
The group’s inaugural Distinguished Service Award went to past president Morton “Salty” Forbes of Forbes, Foster & Pool in Savannah. The President’s Award went to Marty Levinson of Hawkins Parnell Thackston & Young and Garret Meader of Drew Eckl for their leadership of GDLA’s amicus curiae committee.
Project South and Seyfarth Shaw are holding a lunchtime CLE on July 13 to discuss conditions at the immigrant detention centers in Stewart and Irwin County, Georgia, which Project South, Detention Watch Network and other advocacy groups have called two of the worst such facilities in the nation.
Project South’s legal advocacy director, Azadeh Shahshahani, will present findings from the group’s May report on the Stewart and Irwin facilities. The yearlong effort was produced in collaboration with Penn State Law Center’s Immigrant Rights Clinic.
The event, from noon to 1 p.m. on July 13, is free and approved for one CLE hour from the State Bar of Georgia. It will be held at Seyfarth Shaw’s Midtown office at 1075 Peachtree Street. To RSVP, consult projectsouth.org.
The State Bar of Georgia is holding its annual Solo Small Firm Institute at the bar center on July 14 and 15. A plethora of speakers will advise on lawyers on starting their own firms, as well as practice management, technology, fraud threats, ethics and other issues for solo and small practitioners. The program will also address specific practice areas including estate planning, immigration and family law.
The full day-and-a-half conference satisfies the state bar’s annual CLE requirement of 12 hours (including one hour of ethics, one of professionalism and three of trial practice). The cost is $185 in advance and $195 at the door. Check the state bar’s website at gabarsolo.org for details.