Richmond legal industry roundup for 2020: Big bankruptcy cases, Matson and more

A Guitar Center store at 9128 W. Broad St. is one of two in the Richmond area. All of the company’s stores remain open for business during a Chapter 11 bankruptcy restructuring. (Michael Schwartz photo)

With economic downturns come opportunities for some.

Within the Richmond legal community in 2020, big corporate bankruptcies arrived in Richmond federal court wrapped as the gifts that will keep on giving.

The reputation of the Richmond district of the federal court system helped lure a bevy of bankrupt out-of-town companies — mostly retailers — to file their cases in Richmond. Most recent among them was Guitar Center, which is seeking a Chapter 11 safe haven while the pandemic plays out.

Bruce Matson’s law license was revoked by the Virginia State Bar. (BizSense file)

Few instances captured the attention of the local legal scene like the saga of Bruce Matson. The longtime LeClairRyan bankruptcy court veteran was disbarred for mishandling millions of dollars from the LandAmerica bankruptcy trust account. And Matson’s former firm continued to make news in 2020, as LeClairRyan’s bankruptcy unfolded and will continue well into 2021 and perhaps beyond.

MGT construction’s liquidation process was brought to a close. (BizSense file)

Another longtime local legal controversy, the collapse and bankruptcy of MGT Construction, took notable steps during the year. One of the company’s former employees admitted to having a hand in the accounting scheme that led to the firm’s collapse, while the MGT liquidation process was brought to a close.

While the former MGT employee awaits sentencing in his criminal case, prominent local mortgage executive and developer Michael Hild is looking ahead to 2021 to make his case that he was not criminally at fault for the collapse of his firm, Live Well Financial.

The sad tale of Throop Law, a small local bankruptcy firm, came to its final chapter this summer, when its founder and namesake died unexpectedly and without a succession plan for his business. That forced the Virginia State Bar to step in, in a process that eventually led to the bulk of the firm’s assets being sold to one of its former attorneys.

The Robert E. Lee Monument was a focal point and daily gathering place of the protests in Richmond earlier this summer. (BizSense file)

The legal battle over Richmond’s Confederate monuments led to some interesting news during a summer of unrest. In particular, the fate of the state-owned Lee Monument led to a game of hot potato among city circuit court judges in the form of a recusal streak. As the year closes out, the last leg of the case is still pending and the statue still stands.

Troutman Pepper’s downtown Richmond office with its new signage in place. (Courtesy of Troutman Pepper)

On the merger front, the marriage of two large law firms, Troutman Sanders and Pepper Hamilton, had a ripple effect in Richmond, including a spiced up new name for the combined firms.

There was also plenty of movement in the industry by way of new offices, expansions and new lawyer additions:

Roanoke law firm finds fertile ground in Richmond

Finally, speaking of moves, a few groups of musically gifted local lawyers didn’t let the pandemic stop them from hosting the annual Lawyerpalooza event, albeit in virtual form.

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