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Making moves: law firm scene sees shifting staffs

Last year, two groups within the Memphis-based Armstrong Allen law firm began making plans to leave. When the trees were budding in the spring, they made their move.

On April 1, 19 of Armstrong Allen’s 22 lawyers in Jackson officially formed their own law firm, Robinson, Biggs, Ingram, Solop and Farris. By the end of May, the total staff of 40 will move into offices on the first floor of 111 East Capitol Street.

“This is a close bunch of guys who’ve been practicing together for an extremely long time,” said Stuart Robinson, a principal in the new firm that bears his name. “The fact that you’d have so many people stick together tells you the quality of people we have, as well as the type of service we’ll provide our clients.”

Robinson, who said the Jackson office of Armstrong Allen had grown from two to 20 lawyers in a span of three years, said the new set-up would allow Robinson Biggs attorneys “to provide more streamlined service to our clients.”

Licensed to practice law in eight states, the attorneys’ areas of practice include healthcare, oil and gas, commercial and residential real estate development, construction law, business and insurance litigation.

Last fall in Memphis, 15 attorneys at Armstrong Allen’s home base began discussing their own exit strategy with Charles P. Adams Jr., managing partner of New Orleans-based Adams and Reese, about joining the regional firm.

“They weren’t ready to do something at that point,” said Adams. “They were working through other issues. Then sometime in March, they contacted us again and said they were ready to discuss doing something very seriously, so we picked up the conversation.”

On May 1, those 15 attorneys joined Adams and Reese, adding a new Memphis office to the firm’s regional footprint in the South, which now includes 300 attorneys in 10 offices in nine markets: Memphis and Nashville, Tenn., New Orleans and Baton Rouge, La., Birmingham and Mobile, Ala., Houston, Texas, Washington, D.C., and Jackson.

“We’re fortunate that this strong core group of Armstrong Allen people in Memphis wanted to continue practicing together,” said Adams. “These are all seasoned senior lawyers, including the former managing partner of the firm, who are very well capable of running our new office in Memphis.”

James McLaren Jr., former managing partner of Armstrong Allen’s Memphis office, said joining a regional firm “was the most logical and efficient course … it’s a perfect fit for us.”

Adams agreed.

“We were attracted to the Memphis market even before we entered Nashville last year,” he said. (Adams and Reese expanded to Tennessee last year when it merged with the Stokes Bartholomew law firm in Nashville.) “Our firm’s strategic plan calls for progressive growth in targeted markets with thriving economies, so we’re naturally excited about the addition of a new office with 15 attorneys in Memphis, and we plan to grow larger.”

Adams said adding the Memphis office “is like having a large North Mississippi office, in many respects.”

Robinson said the Jackson group had already made a decision to form their own law firm when they heard about the Armstrong Allen attorneys in Memphis joining Adams and Reese.

“We’d agreed on a plan before we knew anything about that,” he said.

“Yes, that was already a done deal before the Armstrong Allen people in Memphis called us,” said Adams. “All of them (in Jackson) are good lawyers, and many of them have a different practice than the Memphis office, which requires different business strategies. The Memphis people saw that their practice could benefit from a large regional platform, and the folks in Jackson had more of a local litigation practice and decided to go their own way.”

Adams said the law firm would not make any changes in the company structure because Adams and Reese offices operate as one large firm with practice groups.

“We don’t look at it office by office,” said Adams. “Our seven-member executive committee consists of one from Nashville, two from Birmingham, one from Mobile, two from New Orleans and me. Our practice group leaders, who really run the practice, come from everywhere and go to all of the offices. Let’s see, there’s one in Nashville, one in Birmingham, two in Houston, one in Jackson and two in New Orleans. When we add an office, it doesn’t change anything. It’s like adding people on a different floor of the same building. All those individuals slide right into practice groups that cover their area of practice.”

Adams said the newest addition of the Memphis office “will add to the strength of our vision to be the strongest firm between Atlanta and Houston.”

Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne W. Jeter at Lynne.Jeter@gmail.com.


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