After 31 years in business, New Jersey litigation boutique Graham Curtin is splitting apart, with the bulk of its practitioners heading to McElroy, Deutsch, Mulvaney & Carpenter.
The 20 lateral additions become official April 1, according to the lawyers involved.
Meanwhile, a group of eight Graham Curtin insurance coverage lawyers opting out of the move have formed Gimigliano, Mauriello & Maloney of Morristown.
According to Graham Curtin co-founder Thomas Curtin, in 50 years of law practice, “this is my third job, and my last.”
“I said, I will do whatever you need me to do … but I don’t want to be serving on committees. I’ve had enough of management,” Curtin, 75, said in an interview. “There’s a time in a lawyer’s life when you say, I want to go to work and do my work.”
The move, however, has as much to do with Graham Curtin’s younger attorneys, and their opportunity to serve in eventual leadership roles at a firm the size of McElroy Deutsch, which, with the April 1 additions, will push its firmwide lawyer head count to nearly 290.
“We have younger people here,” Curtin said. “They were looking towards … the future. They didn’t want to see gray hairs all the time.”
“It would have been nice to continue the way we were, but it just didn’t make sense with the economics of today,” Curtin added.
McElroy Deutsch managing partner Edward Deutsch said the move is borne of a conversation that “started years ago.”
“It adds a fair amount of business and some excellent lawyers in areas that we need some help,” Deutsch said by phone, “and we can help them,” by offering infrastructure and resources. Deutsch said the Garham Curtin laterals now “can take a case that you might have to put five or six people on.”
Talks began in earnest at last year’s New Jersey State Bar Association convention, where Deutsch approached Curtin. But the ties between Graham Curtin and McElroy Deutsch are many, and reach further back than that. Curtin and Deutsch have long been been active with the bar. And Graham Curtin co-founder Jerome Graham Jr., now retired, has a long-standing relationship with Deutsch and is “one of my best friends,” Deutsch said.
Graham Curtin managing partner Peter Laughlin, who is joining in the move, served as outside counsel to McElroy Deutsch over the years on matters of internal management. Also joining is well-known legal malpractice defense litigator Christopher Carey.
“What we did in the negotiation was make sure that anybody who wanted to go could go,” Curtin said.
A group of eight insurance coverage practitioners, led by Graham Curtin partner Stephen Gimigliano, decided to go in another direction, forming Gimigliano Mauriello, which opened its doors on Madison Avenue in Morristown just days ago.
Gimigliano, reached by phone, said the group retained clients in the move—a move that was difficult for him, too, because “I felt like Graham Curtin was mine as well.” He joined the firm as partner 22 years ago after departing Simpson, Thacher & Bartlett.
Gimigliano called Deutsch “a terrific lawyer and a great businessman.”
“It’s just that we had an opportunity to do something a little more entrepreneurial,” he said.
For McElroy Deutsch, some of the new additions will move to its Morristown headquarters, while others, chiefly Carey’s six-member professional liability group, will go to the Newark office.
The new lawyers add depth to practices in which the firm already is doing significant work, including commercial litigation and construction litigation.
Deutsch said his firm can accommodate the additions in existing space.
According to the lawyers, a long conflicts check preceded the deal, and the firms, each of whom have historically done considerable work on behalf of insurance clients, found more clients in common than adverse.
“Astonishingly, I don’t think there were any serious conflicts,” Deutsch said. “I don’t think either firm lost any business because of conflicts, which is unusual, actually.”
McElroy Deutsch, though not the largest New Jersey-based firm by firmwide head count, has nevertheless had the largest number of New Jersey-based lawyers of any firm in recent years, according to Law Journal data. The firm has also branched into other markets over the years, including into Connecticut with the acquisition of Pepe & Hazard in 2010, and more recently Providence, Rhode Island, with the acquisition of a single lateral from Locke Lord. That lateral, litigation partner Paul Dwyer Jr., is in temporary space presently, but the firm will have a permanent office in the city by April or May, Deutsch said.
Attorney head count at Graham Curtin, cresting above 30 in some years, had receded a bit with departures more recently, according to Curtin. But the firm had a history of working on notable cases, for notable clients. The firm has counted American Airlines, Bank of America and CNA Insurance Co. among its corporate clients. Curtin noted a number of what he called Graham Curtin “graduates,” among them U.S. District Judge Peter Sheridan of the District of New Jersey.
Curtin, a former president of the New Jersey State and Morris County bar associations, and a American Bar Association board of governors member, helped form Graham Curtin in 1987. Before that, he had a few iterations of his own firm, based in Newark and Kinnelon, leading to Curtin, Hubner & McKeon.
He called the impending move to McElroy Deutsch “bittersweet in the sense that you’ve been at this with the group of people here for 31 years.”