LeClairRyan’s partnership has officially voted to wind down the firm after months of partner departures and speculation about its future.
In a statement issued late Wednesday the Richmond, Va.-founded firm said the decision was reached after it determined it was in the best interest of its clients, colleagues, and creditors to wind down its operations.
A dissolution committee will work with the firm’s lender over the coming weeks to provide services to clients until the firm ceases to practice. The firm also noted that many of its remaining attorneys will, as others have, depart in short order.
“On behalf of my colleagues, we are deeply saddened to make this announcement today,” said C. Erik Gustafson, the former CEO of LeClairRyan, in the statement.
“Through our transition we will continue to focus first and foremost on the success of our clients, as we have always done,” he said. “I am thankful to all of the clients who have chosen to work with our team over the last 30 years, and I am grateful for the exceptional lawyers and professionals who continue to work with dedication and determination towards winding down the firm in an orderly fashion.”
A Long Slide
The decision to wind down the firm, which was founded in 1988, comes after years of slipping revenue.
LeClairRyan’s gross revenue fell from $163 million in 2015 to $122.4 million in 2018, according to the most recent AmLaw rankings.
In June 2018, the law firm formed a joint partnership with alternative legal service provider UnitedLex. ‘ULX Partners’ was designed to provide nonlegal operations for law firms and touted as “law firm 2.0.” More than 300 administrative and legal support professionals from LeClairRyan were rebadged to ULX for a stake in the venture. How the dissolution of LeClairRyan will affect the venture and its rebadged staff is unclear.
LeClairRyan also reconfigured its leadership in February 2019, naming the head of its litigation team Elizabeth Acee to the newly-created position of firm president where she worked alongside Gustafson.
Despite these changes, the firm never seemed to be able to stop waves of lateral lawyer departures. In January alone the firm lost 20 partners across its Boston; Rochester, New York; and Williamsburg, Va offices. Last month its 15-lawyer aviation team decamped to Fox Rothschild and earlier this week a four-attorney labor and employment team jumped to Clark Hill in Los Angeles.
Recent departures have also come from the management ranks. Founder and named partner Gary LeClair left the firm late last month to join Williams Mullen as a partner along with two other LeClairRyan partners. And David Freinberg, who was the firm’s CEO from 2011 until 2016, quietly left in May to join Greenberg Traurig.
The firm has also been rocked by several lawsuits. Late last month, former staffer Marci Keats filed suit against the firm and ULX Partners for gender pay discrimination. This followed a 2016 gender discrimination suit against the firm by former partner Michelle Craddock. She was awarded $1 million by an arbitration panel in October 2018, but that award was sent back to the arbitrator in June 2019 after a district court found that the attorneys’ fees were not calculated properly.
A representative for LeClairRyan declined to comment further on the firm’s announcement that it will wind down. UnitedLex did not reply to request for comment.
(Clarifies that district court ordered a recalculation of attorneys’ fees in penultimate paragraph.)
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