Jones Walker is quickly building an empire along the 10/12 corridor.
The law firm has more than doubled its stable of lawyers since 1995, and last year acquired a Lafayette law firm and merged with a Mobile, Ala., firm. Expect to see more of it in the coming year.
Jones Walker Managing Partner Bill Hines says it’s part of a long-term strategy to become a full-service law firm along the Gulf Coast—the kind most major southern corporate clients have to go to Houston, Atlanta, Chicago or New York to find.
The goal is to build on existing strengths in energy and maritime specialization to cover every significant area of legal practice, from corporate securities work to real estate and banking.
“For the companies that reside along the corridor, we want to provide the same quality of legal service that historically they have gone elsewhere to find at a significantly reduced cost,” Hines says. “We’re pitching the firm as a full-service line of sophisticated legal services. That’s the model.”
In the past year alone, Jones Walker climbed nearly 20 spots on the National Law Journal ranking of the country’s largest firms, to 163. The firm now has offices from Phoenix to Miami and up into Washington, D.C. For those clients who may benefit from legal representation close to the financial markets, New York City could very well be next.
In September, Jones Walker merged with Miller, Hamilton, Snider & Odom LLC, based in Mobile. The politically connected Miller, Hamilton has specialized in banking law since its founding in 1971.
The move allowed Jones Walker to advise International Shipholding Corp., a major client that moved to Mobile from New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. But it also gave the firm offices in Birmingham, Mobile, Montgomery—opening up the opportunity to capture more Alabama business—and Atlanta, as well as additional lawyers for its existing Miami and D.C. offices.
Just two months later, Jones Walker acquired Longman Russo [formerly Perret Doise], which has been a staple in Lafayette for 21 years. Jones Walker has had an office in Lafayette since 1991.
“For us, this merger brings much more depth and resources to our firm and particular areas of specialty,” says Gary Russo of Longman Russo. “In the past, when we had sophisticated commercial transactions, we frequently had to refer to Jones Walker. In our market, there are some complicated commercial transactions that do require areas of expertise that we just didn’t have before. Now we can bring that level of sophistication here in this local market.”
Jones Walker also scored a coup last year in hiring high-profile attorney Sanford Kaynor away from New York-based Ropes & Gray. Kaynor, who on occasion worked with Jones Walker lawyers on cases while employed by Ropes & Gray, says besides falling in love with New Orleans, he’s also drawn by the prospect of “really growing a significant Gulf Coast practice.”
Hines says Jones Walker considered two other mergers last year, but in the end decided it wasn’t a good match. “We’re very careful to say we’re not going to grow just for the sake of growing,” he says. “There are some national law firms that have had bad experiences adding groups of law firms that didn’t fit, and it caused problems down the line. It can be just as important not to do certain deals as it is to do them.”
Of any future mergers, acquisitions or talent snatching, Hines says only that there is “certainly more to come in 2009.”