News

Gullett Sanford Names New COO

M. Suzanne Hartness has been named the new chief operating officer at the Nashville law firm of Gullett Sanford Robinson & Martin. She replaces Maureen Wylie, the firm’s first COO, who is relocating to Oregon. Hartness will oversee daily business and administrative operations and work with firm management to implement strategic initiatives. She also will be responsible for finance, human resources, hiring, information technology, business development and marketing. Prior to joining the firm, Hartness served with Ricoh Managed Services as a liaison to Middle Tennessee law firms in need of document and mail services.

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TBJ Columns Cover History, the BPR and What Not to Tweet

The Tennessee Bar Journal this month includes regular columns by Russell Fowler, Wade Davies and Bill Haltom. In "History’s Verdict," Fowler writes about Will Thomas, a lawyer who was embraced by and relentlessly defended the Cherokees in the 1800s. Davies, who is wrapping up his term on the Board of Professional Responsibility, details in his column "Crime & Punishment" some of the ways lawyers get into hot water -- and the relatively easy steps to take to stay out of trouble. In "But Seriously, Folks!" Haltom looks at the series of events that unfolded after University of Tennessee law professor Glenn Reynolds tweeted just three words: “Run them down.” Nick McCall reviews the book Almighty: Courage, Resistance and Existential Peril in the Nuclear Age. Read the November issue.

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Report: Number of Women Partners Rising

The percentage of women promoted to partnership in law firms reached a five-year high of 37.3 percent this year, according to an analysis by Diversity & Flexibility Alliance. The group looked at 134 law firms, including 98 of the nation’s top 100 firms. At 32 of the firms, at least half of the lawyers promoted to partnership were women. Read more from a press release or access the full report. The ABA Journal also has a story on the findings.

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Legal Staffing Group Releases 2017 Salary Guide

The legal staffing company Special Counsel has released its 2017 Salary Guide. The publication includes detailed job descriptions, salary data, industry trends and insights on attracting, hiring and retaining talent. The group predicts that with an improved economy, firms are having to compete for a dwindling pool of skilled talent and associate salaries will begin to rise. “The legal industry finds itself in a period of dynamic change, which is creating new opportunities within corporate legal departments and law firms alike."

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Baker Donelson, Ober|Kaler to Combine

The law firms of Baker Donelson and Ober|Kaler have announced plans to join forces effective Jan. 1. Ober|Kaler is a national law firm with health, litigation, business, construction and finance practice areas. The firm has more than 110 attorneys with headquarters in Baltimore, Maryland, and offices in Washington, D.C., and Falls Church, Virginia. The combined firm will maintain the name of Baker Donelson. It will be one of the 50 largest law firms in the country and the third largest health practice in the country.

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Wyatt’s Nashville Office Moving Downtown

Louisville-based law firm Wyatt Tarrant & Combs will move its Nashville office from West End Ave. to the downtown AT&T building. Effective Nov. 14, the firm will occupy 10,000 square feet in the tower. Its new address will be 333 Commerce St., Suite 1400, Nashville 37201. All phone numbers and email addresses will remain the same. Wyatt entered the Nashville market in 1989 when it merged with Gilbert & Milom – making it the first firm to move into the city from out of state.

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Opinion: Cabs, Law Firms Traveling Same Road

Lawyer, law professor and legal innovator Mark A. Cohen writes in Legal Mosiac that the taxicab and legal industries share eight commonalities, including that both are in the throes of “disruptive innovation.” What Uber is doing to the taxi industry, Legal Zoom is doing to the traditional law firm, he suggests. Lawyers can learn a number of lessons from the Uber experience: it has created a paradigm shift in business structure; changed the way providers work, customers buy and technology is used; connected buyers directly to providers; decentralized control of delivery; and aligned the interests of buyer and seller. Law is headed down the same road, he predicts

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Lawyers Included in Most Admired CEO List

The Nashville Business Journal has released its list of the 2016 Most Admired CEOs. Legal leaders on the list are Charles Bone with Bone McAllester Norton and Gary Houspian with Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands.

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Fastcase Founders Talk Success, Work to Do

In an ABA Journal Legal Rebels podcast, Fastcase founders Phil Rosenthal and Ed Walters talk about their past success and future challenges. The duo, both formerly with the law firm of Covington & Burling, have made legal research more accessible and more affordable, but are not satisfied yet. “We’re very gratified by all the work that’s been done. But man, there’s so much more work to do,” says Walters. The company continues to fight for access to public laws and regulations, often against companies that have exclusive publishing rights with states. Tennessee lawyers receive premium access to Fastcase online resources as part of their TBA Complete Membership.

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Study: Female Partners Earn 44% Less than Men

At big American law firms, female partners still earn 44 percent less in pay than their male counterparts, according to a new survey by the legal search firm Major, Lindsey & Africa. The survey found that female partners earned an average of $659,000 annually compared with an average of $949,000 for male partners. Those surveyed attributed the disparity primarily to men bringing in more big-ticket legal cases or being better at getting credit for doing so. Secondary causes included continued existence of an “old boys network” and the number of hours worked. The New York Times has a summary of the findings.

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Partners Facing Increased Pressure to Perform, WSJ Reports

Law firms are increasing assessing performance of partners and some are moving to demote those who do not bring in enough business or bill enough hours, the Wall Street Journal reports. Citing a survey from American Lawyer magazine, the WSJ reports that 56 percent of law firm leaders say they plan to take away equity from partners in the coming year and 67 percent say they plan to ask partners to leave.

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Vanderbilt Team Takes Title at Hackathon

Vanderbilt Law’s Music City Legal Hackers recently brought home first prize at the Georgia Access to Justice Legal Hackathon. The group, sponsored by Vanderbilt Law School’s Program on Innovation, was challenged to address the technology needs of four Georgia pro bono programs that want to extend their capabilities through low-cost legal apps. “The event was a great opportunity to explore how law and technology can combine to provide legal services ‘better, faster and cheaper’ to benefit clients who could not afford it otherwise,” Vanderbilt adjunct professor Larry Bridgesmith said. The team included Lori Gonzales, Andy Seavers, Nick Lorenson, Will Norton and Shannon Collins.

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Bradley Expands to Southwest

Bradley Arant Boult Cummings LLP is opening its first Southwest office in Houston, the Birmingham-based firm announced today. “Our new Houston colleagues are recognized for their quality and service within the construction industry,” Bradley board chair and managing partner Beau Grenier said, “and they will be a solid anchor for us as we serve clients across many practice areas throughout the state from our new location.” Bradley operates eight offices in the Southeast, including one in Nashville.

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Baker Donelson Creates Innovation Post

Baker Donelson has named shareholder William S. Painter as its first chief innovation officer, a new position created to focus on innovation in the delivery of client services and technology. Painter, who works in the firm’s Jackson, Mississippi, office, previously served as the chief strategic planning officer. In his new role, he will oversee legal project and knowledge management, information technology, pricing, eDiscovery/practice support and the firm’s consulting subsidiary. He also will work closely with fellow attorneys to streamline processes and develop and implement new and innovative ways to provide client value, Chattanoogan.com reports.

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Baker Donelson Earns Top Ranking for Diversity

Baker Donelson has been ranked ninth among the nation’s “Best Law Firms for Diversity” by Vault Inc. Baker Donelson achieved top 10 status in three of five categories used to calculate the rankings: diversity for women (sixth place), diversity for military veterans (ninth place) and diversity for individuals with disabilities (10th place). The firm reports that its diversity initiative has led to an increase in diverse attorneys and shareholders, and retention and promotion of female attorneys. Chattanoogan.com has more.

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Memphis Business Journal Names ‘Best Places to Work’

The Memphis Business Journal has named finalists in two of five categories in its Best Places to Work campaign. Companies are judged based on employee size. In the 10-18 employees category, Allen, Summers, Simpson, Lillie & Gresham was the only law firm to make the final list. In the 19-49 employees category, Adams and Reese and Littler made the cut. Other category finalists will be announced this week. The winner from each category will be announced at the Best Places to Work event Oct. 13 at BRIDGES in Downtown Memphis.

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Northern Virginia Law Firm Opens Nashville Office

The northern Virginia Spiggle Law Firm has opened an office in Nashville, founder Tom Spiggle announced today. The employment law firm in the Washington, D.C., area focuses on wrongful termination and pregnancy and family-care discrimination in the workplace. The new office is being led by Phillis Rambsy, a Jackson native. An employment law attorney, Rambsy has worked at law firms in Tennessee, Kentucky, Washington and Maryland. The office is located in the UBS Tower at 315 Deaderick St., Suite 1550, Nashville 37238 and can be reached at 615-647-8952. Read more in this press release from the firm.

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UT Professor Defends Data Used in Lawyer Income Study

The debate over just how much money solo lawyers earn continues, with University of Tennessee College of Law professor Benjamin Barton responding to criticism of the methodology he has used to determine that solo lawyers earned an average of $49,000 in 2012. In a post to Brian Leiter's Law School Reports, Barton argues that his use of IRS data provides a more accurate picture of solo attorney income than methods argued by his critics that have put the average closer to $100,000.

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LSC: Technology, Public Education Needed to Close Justice Gap

Legal Services Corporation Chair John G. Levi told attendees at the recent ABA Annual Meeting that technology and public education will be critical to closing the justice gap, and that the agency has partnered with Microsoft Corp. to develop online portals to direct those with legal needs to services. Levi also said the public at large needs to be aware of the country’s justice gap. To that end, the LSC has formed a leadership council with high-profile ambassadors such as baseball player Hank Aaron and author John Grisham to increase awareness.

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Manier & Herod Moving to Nashville’s Gulch Area

Nashville law firm Manier & Herod will relocate from downtown’s One Nashville Place to a new office tower being built in the Gulch next year, the Tennessean reports. The firm, one of the state’s oldest, has leased 15,397 square feet of space on the ninth floor of the tower, located at 1201 Demonbreun. The firm has been in its downtown location for 30 years, but leaders said they were drawn to the vibrant Gulch area and were impressed with the building and contractor. Neal & Harwell previously announced it too would move to the new building.

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Circuit Court to Update Electronic Public Database

After extensive in-house testing, the Davidson County Circuit Court will be unveiling an updated version of its public database of civil cases. Beta testing on the CaseLink system will take place throughout August with the goal of making the new version live within a couple of months, the Nashville Post reports. Those interested in joining the beta test can email circuitsupport@jis.nashville.org to sign up.

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Burr & Forman to Relocate to New Nashville High-rise

The Nashville office of Burr & Forman will move from its current space at Nashville City Center, 511 Union St., to a new mixed-use high-rise under construction at the corner of First Ave. S. and Demonbreun St. in downtown Nashville. The Birmingham-based law firm has contracted 26,450 square feet of space for 13 years in the new 222 building, Nashville Post reports. The area, dubbed “SoBro” for its south of Broadway location, has been experiencing a growth spurt since construction of the new Music City Center convention facility. The firm anticipates moving in late 2017 when the building opens.

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Baker Donelson Could Leave Namesake Tower

The Baker Donelson law firm is considering whether to move from its namesake office tower in downtown Nashville, the Tennessean reports. The firm reportedly has engaged a real estate broker to find 100,000 square feet of space elsewhere in the city -- an expansion from the 80,000 square feet it has in its current location. The firm’s managing partner, Scott Carey, said the firm is looking at all options. Two other tenants – an architecture firm and FirstBank – also may be moving.

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Houston Firm Sues Ex-Client Over Negative Online Reviews

A law firm in Houston is suing a former client who posted negative reviews about the firm’s attorneys on Yelp and Facebook. The Law Offices of Tuan A. Khuu and Associates is alleging defamation in its suit against 20-year-old Lan Cai, who posted on Yelp that the attorneys “were very pushy” and unresponsive. Cai also wrote on Facebook that the firm was “super unprofessional.” Firm attorney Keith Nguyen said the suit was filed after Cai refused to comply with a cease-and-desist letter, asking her to remove the posts. The ABA Journal has more.
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4 Tennessee Firms Named Best for Women

Working Mother & Flex-Time Lawyers have named this year’s 50 best law firms for women, based on factors such as whether women are paid the same as men, receive substantial paid leave, serve as equity partners, and are on track to achieve leadership positions. Firms on the list with links to Tennessee include Bradley Arant Boult Cummings and Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman -- both with offices in Nashville -- and Littler and Ogletree Deakins with offices in Nashville and Memphis.

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