Following a year that saw several of its attorneys jump ship, and an eight-figure payout to creditors of a bankrupt former client, a downtown law firm is moving ahead in 2017 with a pair of notable additions to its local team.
LeClairRyan has lured away local employment attorney Betsy Davis from Spotts Fain, where she had been for all of her 18-year career. She joins LeClair in the same capacities she served at Spotts Fain, as an attorney and shareholder.
LeClair also has picked up Brian Lansing, most recently with local tobacco giant Altria, where he served as in-house counsel for 12 years. Lansing joins LeClair as senior counsel, focusing on compliance, investigations and white collar criminal defense, commercial litigation, and intellectual property and technology.
CEO Erik Gustafson said the firm is building its labor and employment team and governmental investigations practice, which recently has added attorneys from the U.S. State Department and U.S. Attorney’s Office in LeClair’s other offices across the country.
“For Brian, he’s joining a practice where he’s got some overlap in skill sets, so there are people to market and network with,” Gustafson said. “And he’s got a unique expertise and insight, having been in house, to really having a client’s perspective and not just an outside counsel’s perspective.
“Betsy had all of the right personality and talent and has immediately jumped in with some of our existing clients,” he said. “She has a number of opportunities with clients who have needs outside of Richmond and Virginia, and I think she’s seeing those opportunities come to fruition as well.”
A UVA grad with a law degree from UR, Davis said she was drawn to LeClair’s resources and geographic reach when recruited to join its labor and employment team. In addition to Richmond, LeClair has more than 25 offices nationwide, including a recently opened location in Chicago.
“I think LeClair effectively serves Richmond-based businesses,” Davis said. “But also, here, I have an opportunity to serve clients with a larger geographical reach.”
Lansing, a UR grad with a law degree from Wake Forest University, said he was drawn to LeClair as he sought to move back to private practice after years as in-house counsel for Altria and government agencies. After starting his career in the U.S. Navy, putting in two years as a prosecutor aboard an aircraft carrier, Lansing served as a defense attorney for the Navy and Department of Defense, and worked eight years at a firm in Washington, D.C. He’s also served the past five years as a trial judge for the Navy Reserve.
Lansing said he was connected with LeClair through Jim Guy, a firm attorney and immediate past president of the Virginia Bar Association. He said in his role as senior counsel, his primary task is to help build the firm’s white collar criminal defense group.
“For me, LeClairRyan was a very good fit, because it’s a law firm that saw the value in the breadth of experience that I had, and was willing to give me the opportunity to transition back to private practice and grow a practice,” Lansing said.
Last summer, six LeClair Ryan attorneys followed Charlie Meyer, who previously led the firm’s labor and employment practice group, to form local firm O’Hagan Meyer with founder Kevin O’Hagan. Four of those attorneys were also in LeClair’s labor and employment group.
More recently, the firm lost three attorneys to local rival Williams Mullen. And last year, LeClair agreed to a settlement with the trustee overseeing the liquidation of former client Health Diagnostic Laboratory, paying $20 million into HDL’s bankruptcy estate after a months-long dispute over potential malpractice claims related to its representation of the lab company.
Despite those local setbacks, Gustafson, who’s based in LeClair’s Alexandria office, said the firm is pressing forward in Richmond and other markets after grossing just over $160 million in revenue in 2016. The firm, which maintains local offices downtown and in Glen Allen, had 350 attorneys and 660 total staff nationwide as of January, according to its website.
“I would expect to see more opportunities, particularly in business- and commercial-related practices and regulatory practices, in Richmond,” Gustafson said. “I think there’s still a lot of opportunity down there – really good clients, really good lawyers.
“We’re like a lot of other firms on the hunt for talent that’s relevant to our clients, and we think there’s an awful lot of talent in Richmond that has relevancy to our clients.”