Biglaw, Husch Blackwell, Lateral Moves, Law Firm Mergers, Partner Issues, Texas

Husch Your Mouth: Managing Partner Talks Trash About A Rival Firm And A Former Colleague

Earlier this week, we congratulated Husch Blackwell on its expansion in Texas. The firm achieved that growth by merging with Austin-based Brown McCarroll, forming a firm with 600 lawyers and more than $300 million in revenue that would have made the Am Law 100 with such numbers.

But Husch recently lost some lawyers too. Earlier in the week, 11 Husch attorneys, including eight shareholders, lateraled over to Polsinelli (formerly Polsinelli Shughart).

The defections didn’t sit well with Gregory Smith, CEO and managing partner of Husch Blackwell. He had some amusingly catty comments about Polsinelli and one of the Husch partners who made the move….

Here’s the report from Am Law Daily, which covered both the Brown McCarroll merger and the Polsinelli defections:

Interviewed by The Am Law Daily Tuesday about the departures — and before announcing his firm’s merger with Brown McCarroll — Husch CEO and managing partner Gregory Smith took a swipe at Kansas City–based Polsinelli, whose growth in recent years is the subject of a feature story in the June issue of The American Lawyer.

“Polsinelli is interested in nothing but adding numbers,” Smith said. “The firm is not about real revenue increase — it is about head count increase.”

Ouch. That was way harsh, Tai.

But Polsinelli can give as good as it gets:

Asked to respond to Smith’s remarks, Polsinelli chairman and CEO Russ Welsh was mostly dismissive: “We are not chasing some artificial head count or gross revenue number,” Welsh said. “This sounds like someone is throwing sour grapes to me, and we do not engage in that type of behavior.”

“Throwing” sour grapes? Is that how they say it down in Missouri? (Or should I say Missouruh?)

Speaking of pelting someone with rotten fruit, Greg Smith had some additional remarks about Walter Wilson, the former head of Husch’s government contracts practice who moved over to Polsinelli:

“I believe Walter Wilson’s decision to move was in direct response to our decision to replace him as chair of our government contract practice with Mike Gatje,” Smith said. “Walt has not been as active in the practice in a number of years, and he spends a lot of time in Naples, Florida. Gatje is younger, and the people who stayed in that practice are younger.”

In Wilson’s defense, Naples is really quite lovely. There’s a nice Ritz-Carlton Hotel down there.

Meanwhile, Wilson took the high road in responding:

“I would never speak ill of Husch Blackwell,” he says. “Polsinelli is a very dynamic firm that offers my clients an opportunity to be better served. It has 650 lawyers, a supplies service, and a construction practice that ensures my clients’ needs will be better served. Gatje taking over my position had been in the works for awhile, and I would not be upset even if I had not had this opportunity.”

In my opinion, Greg Smith’s remarks about Polsinelli and Walter Wilson were ill-advised. At least based on the Am Law article, Smith comes across sounding a little petty.

There were better ways to handle this. When Polsinelli poaches your people, the best response is to hold an office exorcism. The Power of Biglaw compels you!

Husch Blackwell merges with Texas law firm [Kansas City Star]
Husch Blackwell and Brown McCarroll Agree to Join Forces [Husch Blackwell (press release)]
In Wake of Polsinelli Raid, Husch Unveils Texas Tie-Up [Am Law Daily]

Earlier: An Exorcism at Bryan Cave?

(hidden for your protection)

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