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04 February 2021

K&L Gates secures 18 partners from four firms to open in Nashville

Top 20 US firm by headcount opens 24th national arm targeting healthcare, tech and investment sectors

By John Malpas

Nashville, Tennessee, USA downtown skyline on the Cumberland River

ESB Professional; Shutterstock

K&L Gates has hired 18 partners from four of Nashville’s leading law firms to open in Tennessee’s state capital, its 24th US office.

The top 20 US firm by headcount has secured 25 lawyers in total with a broad range of specialisms including health care, litigation, corporate, intellectual property, finance and construction. It said it was targeting the area’s health care, technology and investment sectors and promised further expansion in the coming months.

Waller – Nashville’s largest firm according to research by Nashville Business Journal – is losing four partners; firm number two by size, Bass Berry & Sims, is losing one partner, while at the city’s fifth-largest practice, Butler Snow, nine partners have moved across. Four partners are also leaving Detroit-based Dickinson Wright’s Nashville arm.

Up until now, national and international US firms have side-stepped Nashville, although it does host Pillsbury’s global operations centre and legal services department, while Baker Donelson, the result of merger between Memphis and Tennessee firms, has more than 100 lawyers in the city.

Jim Segerdahl, K&L Gates’ global managing partner, said the firm had “many clients with deep connections” to Nashville, which had “experienced remarkable growth in recent years and decades”.

K&L Gates’ global strategic growth partner, Craig Budner, added that the firm’s “ability to recruit such a prominent and varied group of partners demonstrated the “enthusiasm of lawyers and clients in the region for the presence of a fully integrated global law firm”.

Nashville is best known as a centre for healthcare and boasts the headquarters of HCA Healthcare, which is ranked at 65 in the Fortune 500, and the new office is being led by longstanding partner Mary Beth Johnston, co-leader of  K&L Gates’s health care and FDA practice.

However, Johnston, who also heads the firm’s Research Triangle Park office, said the city’s attractiveness to the firm went beyond healthcare given “strong growth in the technology, finance, construction, manufacturing, and related industries”.

The manner of the firm’s arrival in Nashville –  through a series of lateral hires – is in stark contrast to the model adopted by Dentons, which has so far signed up five regional US firms as part of its Project Golden Spike to build a network of Dentons-branded regional offices covering the US. 

Last July, UK Magic Circle law firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer announced the opening of a seven-partner Silicon Valley office with the hire of five partners from four US rivals while in May McDermott Will & Emery hired a team of seven lawyers from a trio of law firms to open an office in Atlanta.

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