Monday, June 7, 2010
Fifteen lawyers have left law firm LeClairRyan to form a new firm called Murphy & McGonigle. Murphy & McGonigle will focus on representing public companies and individuals in high-stakes litigation and governmental investigations and enforcement proceedings. The new firm announced that it has launched with offices in New York, Washington, D.C. and Richmond, Virginia.
Fifteen lawyers have left Richmond-based LeClairRyan to form a boutique firm that will specialize in defending financial services companies and targets of Securities and Exchange Commission enforcement actions.
The new firm will be called Murphy & McGonigle, with James A. Murphy and Thomas J. McGonigle as co-founders.
Murphy will head the litigation group with offices in New York City and Richmond, and McGonigle will direct the securities enforcement group from an office in Washington.
Six of Murphy & McGonigle's partners served in the SEC's Division of Enforcement, some in senior management positions, including a former Associate Director, an Assistant Director and three Branch Chiefs. Thomas J. McGonigle, co-founder of Murphy & McGonigle, said that the “core of this Group has been working together since our days at the SEC.”
Murphy noted that state and federal authorities announced recently that the federal court in Alexandria will be the focus of white-collar and criminal SEC prosecutions.
Conflicts between corporations and their officers and employees are an inevitable consequence of such enforcement action, and Murphy said he believes the new firm will be able to provide those services at a much lower cost structure than Washington and New York firms that historically have performed such work.
The SEC doesn’t “look kindly on counsel who are not sufficiently sensitive to conflicts,” he said.
Christopher J. Forstner, an attorney with Capital One Services Inc., will join the firm later this month and direct a litigation support group in Richmond that will use contract attorneys to provide electronic discovery in support of the firm’s litigation efforts.
Murphy said he anticipates the firm will use 50 to 100 contract attorneys at a time during the next year. He also expects financial services firms to employ the support group for document review in matters outside of litigation, Murphy said.
Murphy and Gary D. LeClair, co-founder and chairman of LeClairRyan, said the departure of the attorneys is amicable. “We fully anticipate referring business to each other,” Murphy said.
LeClair said, “These are great lawyers. We’re going to have a win-win relationship going forward. … No one will be rooting for their success more than us.”
A major advantage for the new firm is that “they’re not going to have the same kind of conflicts in a boutique that we have in a big law firm like ours,” LeClair said.
The departure is the second high-profile exit from the firm in the last few months. A group of lobbying and administrative law attorneys left the firm to join Eckert Seamans Cherin & Mellott LLC in that firm’s effort to expand its presence in Virginia.
Those departures have coincided with the addition of 26 lawyers this year at LeClairRyan, most of them in offices outside Virginia, LeClair said.
“We have a very disciplined, client-focused business plan that we’re executing,” he added. “We are making strategic moves that will get us where we need to go.”
The recent growth outside Richmond notwithstanding, “We are very fortunate to have grown up here in Richmond,” LeClair said. The area has a large pool of attorneys and legally trained support personnel that allow the firm to operate with a lower cost structure than that of many firms based elsewhere, he said.
The firm has about 300 attorneys nationwide and also have a substantial business providing document review and electronic discovery with contract attorneys. That number goes up and down, but about 130 are on the payroll now, he said.