Law firm merger to bring new national brand to Richmond

McGonigle keeps its local office at 4870 Sadler Road in Innsbrook, where the Davis Wright Tremaine brand will soon be introduced. (BizSense file photo)

A niche law firm founded 12 years ago by a group of LeClairRyan attorneys has a merger in the works that will soon bring a new national law brand to Richmond.

McGonigle, a 44-attorney firm with an office in Innsbrook, is in the process of merging into Davis Wright Tremaine, which has around 550 lawyers nationwide.

McGonigle, originally known as Murphy & McGonigle, has had an office in the Richmond area since it was founded in 2010 by a group of LeClairRyan attorneys with a focus on representing clients in the financial services industry. It has since grown its lawyer ranks from 15 to 44, spread across offices in New York, Washington, D.C., San Francisco and Chicago.

The Davis Wright Tremaine logo. It will be the surviving brand after the merger closes.

That’s in addition to its Innsbrook outpost, which houses a team of four attorneys and around 10 support staff, all of whom will be coming over in the deal.

The merger is set to close July 1. Davis Wright Tremaine will be the surviving brand on all the firm’s offices.

Bradford Hardin

Bradford Hardin, a partner in Davis Wright’s Washington, D.C. office and chair of its banking and financial services practice, said merger talks came about earlier this year. He said the discussions were prompted by Davis Wright’s desire to beef up its ranks of lawyers representing financial services clients.

In particular, Hardin said Davis Wright has had lawyers working for clients in consumer banking, payments and financial tech, but was missing McGonigle’s focus on securities and capital markets regulation matters.

“In February we were talking to a longtime client asking us to work on a project and it had a significant securities component,” Hardin said. “We were unable to take on that representation because we didn’t have the capability.”

That firm reached out to McGonigle to team up or send it the referral and talks progressed from there.

“The fit was immediately obvious,” Hardin said. “All of that complements but doesn’t overlap with our existing financial services capabilities. From the McGonigle side they had been hearing from clients for many years that the firm, by the nature of being boutique, doesn’t have certain full-service capabilities.”

Stephen Gannon, a partner in McGonigle’s Innsbrook office, echoed Hardin.

Stephen Gannon

“The deal for us in my view is all upside,” Gannon said. “It plays to where we’re already strong, but because we were a boutique we couldn’t offer some of the standard things: corporate transactions, intellectual property or payments.”

Gannon, who started his career at what was then known as Hunton & Williams and also was previously a partner at LeClairRyan, said the Innsbrook office will continue on, including its sizable document production operation.

“The name on the door should change July 1, but the thing under the hood that changes is our ability to do more for our clients and have a broader geographic reach,” Gannon said.

The addition of McGonigle’s 44 attorneys and 31 support staff will bring Davis Wright to a roster of around 600 attorneys and more than 1,500 employees total.

The combined firm’s largest office is Davis Wright’s outpost in Seattle, where it was founded by John Davis. It’s next largest offices are in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. Its other offices are in Anchorage, Alaska; Bellevue, Washington; New York City; and Portland, Oregon.

With the combined firm’s Richmond-area office intact, Hardin said the firm has yet to plot out any future growth plans locally.

“It remains to be seen what the strategic plan for Davis Wright Tremaine in Richmond will be,” Hardin said. “Our principal target growth markets are New York and the San Francisco Bay area and Chicago.”

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