The year of LeClairRyan: Richmond law firm news roundup 2019

The door to LeClairRyan’s Richmond office has been padlocked after their landlord evicted them from the property. (BizSense file photo)

In one of the busiest years in recent memory for Richmond law firm news, there was the story of LeClairRyan – and then there was everything else.

The year began with a continued, steady stream of lawyers jumping ship from LeClairRyan offices nationwide. Then came the rumors and reports of its impending demise, and its namesake founder making his exit. The demise ultimately arrived, as the firm collapsed and was put into bankruptcy.

It was a fascinating saga that will continue to play out in 2020 in bankruptcy court and as lawyers continue shuffling around trying to find the right home after being displaced.

LandAmerica … It’s back

LandAmerica Financial Group went bankrupt in November 2008. (BizSense file photo)

In an odd twist that was tangentially touched by LeClair’s collapse, the complex bankruptcy case of LandAmerica was brought back from the dead, after millions of dollars from its trust account was found to have been moved into the personal account of its trustee and his wife. The trustee was longtime LeClairRyan attorney Bruce Matson. The money was ultimately accounted for, while Matson was removed from oversight of the LandAmerica estate.

On the move

Speaking of shuffling, there was no shortage of local law firms making moves in and around the region.

The site of Kerns & Kastenbaum’s new office sits catty-corner from the firm’s current home. (BizSense file photo)

Kerns & Kastenbaum began construction on its new office in the Willow Lawn area.

Ford Richardson, which was launched in Richmond in 2018 by former McCandlish Holton attorneys, expanded in 2019 to Hampton Roads.

Phelan Petty, a 9-year-old firm that handles personal injury, medical malpractice and product liability, bought a building from another firm across from Scott’s Addition for its new home.

Another local personal injury firm, West End-based Cantor Stoneburner Ford Grana & Buckner, merged in the spring with Breit Drescher Imprevento of Virginia Beach. The result is Breit Cantor.

Jeffrey Breit (left) and Irvin Cantor. (Courtesy Breit Cantor)

Two firms with Chicago roots, O’Hagan Meyer, and Freeborn & Peters, added to their presence in downtown Richmond.

New arrivals

In a sign of strength for the region’s legal market, a handful of out-of-town firms set up shop in Richmond for the first time this year.

Miles & Stockbridge, a 93-year-old Baltimore-based firm, opened an office in downtown Richmond to be manned by 10 attorneys, the bulk of whom were formerly with LeClairRyan.

Former LCR attorney Tom Wolf will be leading Miles & Stockbridge’s new office in Richmond.

Sean Byrne and four others left Hancock Daniel in Henrico to launch Byrne Legal Group.

By way of Roanoke, Frith Anderson + Peake opened an outpost in Innsbrook manned by an attorney lured over from a rival.

Also in Innsbrook, Columbia, South Carolina-based McAngus Goudelock & Courie opened its first Virginia office with three lawyers.

Born out of the government realm, two attorneys who met while working at the state attorney general’s office ventured out on their own to open a firm in Shockoe Slip.


Lawyerpalooza has been revived. (BizSense file photos)

Ending with something fun, 2019 brought about the revival of Lawyerpalooza, a battle of the bands comprised of members of the local legal community. On the bill were Soul Providers, a local soul band led by Steve Webb of Henrico-based law firm Parcell, Webb & Baruch; The Harpoondodgers, a rock and alt-country outfit featuring Jon Hubbard with Troutman Sanders; and Max Power, a pop-focused group that includes Steve Mutnick with downtown firm Blackburn, Conte, Schilling & Click and Brad Goodwin with personal injury firm ReidGoodwin.

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