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VOL. 36 | NO. 24 | Friday, June 15, 2012

Butler Snow’s expansion ‘just the start’

By Kathleen Carlson

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Going from two lawyers to nearly 40 seemingly overnight is just the beginning for a Mississippi-based law firm’s presence in Music City, says Donald Clark Jr., the firm’s chairman.

“From what I’ve seen in Nashville so far, I wouldn’t be surprised if Nashville leads the firm in growth from now on. … This is just the start,” Clark says, adding the firm is still recruiting attorneys to join the Nashville office.

Butler, Snow, O’Mara, Stevens and Cannada, PLLC, last week added 37 attorneys formerly with the Nashville office of Chattanooga-based Miller & Martin. It was the single-biggest addition ever for Butler Snow, which now has 12 offices in all, including two in Tennessee.

The firm has folded its two-lawyer Cool Springs office into downtown Nashville office space at One Nashville Place on 4th Avenue North.

“As they expand they are looking for a signature downtown office building,” says Todd Smith, president and chief communications officer with Deane, Smith and Partners, the law firm’s public relations firm. One Nashville Place will be the firm’s location for up to nine months as it searches for permanent downtown space, Smith says.

Butler Snow started with one lawyer in Memphis and by “onesies and twosies,” became the city’s second-largest law firm with 60 attorneys, Clark says.

“It was only logical for us to try to have a presence in the capital city of Tennessee,” since many Memphis clients have regular dealings with state government, he explains.

In the week since the announcement, the new attorneys’ biographical information already is on the Butler Snow website. The lawyers were getting to know Butler Snow’s technology – already installed – and the head of its litigation department was holding a group meeting in Nashville, Clark says.

Miller & Martin has offices in Chattanooga, Atlanta and Nashville. Managing partner James Haley told the Chattanooga Times Free Press last week in a statement that the firm was committed to having a presence in the Nashville market. Haley said the “overriding reason” for the lawyers’ departure “has to do with different philosophies about how to build and expand our practice.”

“We talked to this group over a period of several months,” Clark says the former Miller & Martin attorneys. They had a “similar outlook to the practice of law. Their culture is similar” to Butler Snow’s

“The way we do business is somewhat different from most firms. … We don’t live and die by billable hours. Clients love it,” he says. “We work for the benefit of the client. The best attorney who can most cost-effectively represent the client is who we build the team around.”

For example, if a Nashville attorney is best suited to serve a client in Memphis, there’s no obstacle to that lawyer working for the Memphis client, he says. The firm also takes a more subjective approach to attorney compensation, looking at how the attorney adds value to the firm, its clients and the community rather than simply focusing on the number of hours billed, he says.

The new lawyers work within Butler Snow’s existing practice areas – business specialties, litigation, and industry-specific practices. They “broaden our capabilities substantially. … There’s tremendous experience added across the board,” Clark says. “We almost become a full-service firm here in Nashville.”

“These attorneys had the opportunity individually and collectively to go to any number of firms here in Nashville,” Clark says. In addition, several national firms seeking to locate in Nashville contacted them as well. “We’re excited that they chose to join Butler Snow when they had so many other options.”