Burns White is bringing its investigations and criminal defense practice back to life, hiring a partner in Pittsburgh to lead the effort.
Meagan Temple has left her two-lawyer Pittsburgh firm Bruzzese & Temple to join Burns White, where she will help re-establish the practice group. Burns White had dissolved the practice at the end of 2014, after practice chairman Stephen Stallings left the firm, but recently began looking for a seasoned criminal defense lawyer to start it up again.
“At that time, we had a small team that worked in this area, and felt these resources would be better focused in other emerging practice areas,” said managing partner David B. White in an email. “As we continue to grow the business, re-establishing a practice area focused on government investigation and criminal defense was a clear opportunity to expand our services for existing clients and engage new business.”
Some of the firm’s existing attorneys will work with Temple in the specialty practice group, White said.
By adding Temple, the firm is able to broaden the practice and include government investigations, White said. In addition to her law firm experience, she started her career working for the judge advocate general in the U.S. Air Force.
“It had previously been pretty much exclusively a white-collar criminal defense practice … that can be a tough sell in Pittsburgh,” Temple said.
The city isn’t small, but it’s not especially big either, she said, and the amount of criminal defense work available is somewhat dependent on law enforcement activity. Investigations practices aren’t always the most profitable, Temple said, but it’s important for firms to have that expertise when clients need it.
“The line between a civil and criminal investigation when the federal government is involved is very fine and it can be very dangerous for lawyers who don’t have experience with federal criminal investigations,” she said.
Adding her practice will allow Burns White to keep the work when that line is crossed, instead of referring it out, Temple said.
“The broader approach will allow us to help clients address the intricacies involved in the government investigative process,” White said. “As the business world evolves and governmental regulations change, the need to offer these services to our clients has become more evident.”
Until recently, a former name partner from the firm was the head federal prosecutor in Western Pennsylvania. David Hickton‘s name was dropped from the firm name in 2010, when he was sworn in as the U.S. attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania, and he resigned from that post in November. White said neither Hickton’s presence in that role nor his resignation had an impact on the firm and its white-collar practice.
Burns White now has more than 140 lawyers, with offices in Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, Ohio and West Virginia.