For the first time in about two decades, there’s been a changing of the guard at ThompsonMcMullan.
The Shockoe Slip law firm announced earlier this month that longtime president Chris Malone is stepping down from that role and his successor is Billy Tunner.
Malone, who joined the firm in 1981 and had served as president for 20 years, will continue his law practice at the firm.
The 33-attorney firm has grown from nine since Malone took over. He said that growth was a step in the firm’s evolution and now is the time to move aside to make way for the next era.
“I certainly enjoyed the opportunity to see us through the transition from a first-generation to second-generation law firm, which is an important transition in the life of a law firm,” said Malone, 66. “I’m at a point in my career where I told my partners for a while now, my horizon is not the same as theirs and the younger folks ought to take more of a lead on the vision of the firm.”
The changeover took place Jan. 1 after a vote by the firm’s 13 shareholders.
Tunner, 53, joined the firm in 2000 after stints at Stackhouse Smith & Nexsen in Norfolk and Huff Poole & Mahoney in Chesterfield.
The Richmond native and Collegiate School grad received his bachelor’s degree from Washington & Lee University and his law degree from University of Richmond.
While both Malone and Tunner said they didn’t have any sort of formal succession plan or grooming process, the transition is a natural one.
“I’ve been working literally next door to Chris. We’ve shared a wall for 19 years,” Tunner said. “We both do litigation and work on cases together and have covered for each other. He’s been a mentor to me since I’ve been here.”
He added, “I think maybe without knowing he was grooming me, he was. Maybe it was not completely intentional, but that’s how it turned it out.”
Now at the helm, Tunner said the firm’s next phase is to continue to grow certain practice areas.
“We would like to get much more deeply into commercial real estate and historic tax credits,” he said, adding they’d also like to grow the corporate practice. “What we want to do is recruit some talent. We’ve been a good landing spot for some very talented lawyers and we have more space in our building.”
Though most of its employees are working from home during the pandemic, the firm continues to operate its main office at 100 Shockoe Slip and a newer location in Midlothian.
Tunner, like Malone, will continue his practice while handling the president duties. He joked that a friend offered an analogy of his dual roles upon hearing about it last week.
“It’s like eating a pie contest where the winner of the contest gets to eat more pie,” he said, adding that he’s honored to carry the extra load.
And while the initial word of the changeover at the president’s spot mistakenly led some to believe Malone was retiring outright, he said he has no plans to cease practicing law for the foreseeable future.
“The rumor of my departure is greatly exaggerated,” Malone joked. “I plan on being here for a good while yet.”