Former Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld partner Barry Chasnoff tried retirement but didn’t like it. So he returned to the practice of law by forming a small firm with three younger lawyers from Norton Rose Fulbright.
Chasnoff, who is based in San Antonio and served as Akin Gump’s general counsel, opened Chasnoff Mungia Pepping & Stribling in April with Manuel Mungia, Matthew Pepping and Blake Stribling. Chasnoff’s three partners had been senior associates at Norton Rose in San Antonio, but Mungia and Pepping formerly worked with Chasnoff at Akin Gump in San Antonio.
Chasnoff does legal malpractice defense work for firms and their insurers, Stribling does general commercial litigation, and Pepping and Mungia work with insurers on policy issues and also defend them in litigation.
The new firm has grown to six lawyers since it opened April 1, and Chasnoff said they expect to add several more lawyers this summer. The firm’s current space has room for 14 lawyers, he said.
Chasnoff retired from Akin Gump in early 2017 after reaching the mandatory retirement age of 67. He said that was partly his own doing because he was on Akin Gump’s executive committee a few years ago when the firm adopted the retirement policy. He said it’s a sound policy for a large firm like Akin Gump, but it didn’t work for him.
“After driving both my wife and the dogs crazy for a short period of time, I realized I had far too much energy to sit around and watch cable TV,” said Chasnoff, who said he did a lot of charity work during his brief retirement.
Chasnoff and Pepping started talking last summer about forming a firm, and the idea took off from there, Chasnoff said. It was not just that the retired lawyer was at loose ends; Chasnoff said former law firm clients were also calling him to ask that he go back to work and represent them in their legal difficulties.
Pepping said he and Mungia have been close friends since 2006, when Chasnoff hired them as summer associates at Akin Gump in San Antonio. Pepping said he, Mungia and Stribling decided they wanted to open a small firm to continue to do the work they had been doing but with flexibility in billing rates. Pepping said their firm offers clients discounted rates compared to what they pay big firms.
“We are able to avoid a lot of the overhead and costs that kind of get associated with big firms. We don’t have a New York office. We don’t have a London office—that high rent that kind of gets built into the hourly rate at a big firm,” Mungia said.
Pepping said they have nothing but good things to say about their former firms and colleagues, but they wanted to practice at a smaller firm. “We were fortunate to have had really good mentors early on, and are willing to pass that along to our associates,” he said.
Stribling had spent his career at Norton Rose before he helped form Chasnoff Mungia Pepping & Stribling. Pepping and Mungia joined Norton Rose in 2016.
Norton Rose did not immediately respond to a request for comment.