Barnes & Thornburg, one of the largest Indiana-based law firms, has opened an office in Atlanta.
"Atlanta is a strong financial center, and we thought we'd be a good fit," said the firm's managing partner Alan Levin, who announced the expansion this morning. He added that while financial centers are hurting in the current economy and financial growth may not be what it has been, Atlanta is still a significant market.
The office opened Saturday with partners Stuart C. Johnson and Jason A. Bernstein. Johnson is now a partner in Barnes & Thornburg's business department, and Bernstein is a partner in the firm's intellectual property department. The two were previously partners in the Atlanta office of Bryan Cave Powell Goldstein. That firm was the result of a Jan. 1, 2009, merger of Atlanta-based Powell Goldstein and St. Louis-based international law firm Bryan Cave; Powell Goldstein's name is being retained temporarily only in that merged firm's Atlanta office.
Levin said Barnes & Thornburg has had good growth here, including in its office in Chicago, which he referred to as a kind of capital of the Midwest.
"We're looking at Atlanta as kind of the capital of the Southeast and a good market to gain entry to," Levin said.
"We've always been conservative about our growth and have managed our costs well so we have remained competitive with our rates," said Levin, who noted the firm has not had any reductions in force.
Firm management is aware of law firm layoffs in Atlanta, but the city – like Chicago – is competitive and they anticipate growing the office to reflect the needs and skills sets required for that market, said Levin.
He added they have no hard numbers by which they hope to grow the Atlanta office, but he said they will aggressively recruit lateral attorneys in all practice areas with the intention of growing a full-service office in Atlanta, similar to its approach in Chicago. Atlanta is the firm's eighth office in the U.S.
Barnes & Thornburg opened its Chicago office with one attorney in 1994; it now has more than 80 attorneys. The firm opened an office in Grand Rapids, Mich., with two attorneys and has grown to more than 20 lawyers in five years. The firm also recently hired attorneys for its Grand Rapids and Washington, D.C., offices. Based in Indianapolis, the firm has 517 legal professionals – 456 attorneys plus paralegals and law clerks – firm-wide and also has offices in Elkhart, Fort Wayne, and South Bend.