Several local lawyers recently made the leap from one of the oldest legal institutions in Richmond to the one of the fastest growing firms in town.
Shockoe Bottom law firm BrownGreer added three attorneys in the past several weeks, all from downtown-based McGuireWoods.
BrownGreer founding partner Orran Brown said he’s well aware that word travels fast when three local lawyers leave for another firm around the same time.
But Brown said this is a case of timing, rather than poaching.
“It wasn’t like we’re raiding the cabinets at McGuireWoods,” Brown said. “These are three people that all had unique reasons for coming here. We’ve never approached anybody at an existing firm, because we don’t want to poach people.”
In fact, Brown said it’s rare for lawyers to leave a firm like McGuireWoods for a firm like BrownGreer.
“A lot of people at existing firms worry about us, because what we do is so project driven,” Brown said. “Some people worry about how permanent it is here.”
The project fueling the firm’s growth is the BP oil spill settlement case in the Gulf Coast. The firm is helping divvy out the billions of dollars that will be paid to residents and businesses that lost wages and revenue as a result of the massive spill of BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig in April 2010.
Of BrownGreer’s 1,400 total employees, about 1,200 were hired to work the BP case.
But working such cases can be feast or famine. The BP settlements will be paid out by 2014, and that means the staff numbers could fluctuate.
“We shrink and swell so much,” Brown said. “It’s great for three years, and we finish up and ramp down.”
When the BP case is settled, BrownGreer will move on — it hopes — to another big case. The firm has worked large settlement cases from oil spills to pharmaceuticals to Chinese drywall.
“We’ve always been lucky and have never been out of work to do,” Brown said.
BrownGreer is the third largest Richmond-based law firm based on the number of local attorneys, behind Hunton & Williams and McGuireWoods. (See the rankings of local law firms here.)
And the hiring frenzy isn’t over.
“We could probably use another 100 people,” Brown said. Those will include mostly claims reviewers and claims supervisors.
To make more room for those employees, BrownGreer recently closed on a new headquarters: the 38,000-square-foot Cedar Works building in Rockett’s Landing.
Included in the new hires is Brown’s son, Orran Brown Jr., who had been at McGuireWoods for a couple of years after graduating from the University of Virginia.
The two had talked about such a move for a while and decided to finally pull the trigger.
“It’s a different dynamic when we’re working on a project together,” Brown said of seeing his son in action. “It’s taken a little getting used to.”