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As one of the South’s economic powerhouses since sweeping up all the ash after Gen. William Sherman traveled through, Atlanta has a significant legacy of legal prowess with some of the country’s biggest firms finding a home in town.
Dentons, Alston & Bird, King & Spalding and Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton were all named as “Georgia Powerhouse” firms recently by one of the legal industry’s top news publications Law360. All except Dentons hung their shingles before the turn of the 20th century. (The relative newcomer Dentons opened shop 50 years ago.)
Each firm is involved with a Who’s Who of Atlanta corporate giants– from Alston & Bird representing Coca-Cola, Kilpatrick representing Delta Air Lines, Dentons working with Tyler Perry Studios (and the city of Atlanta) and King & Spalding guiding Mailchimp through its purchase by Intuit.
The four firms combined have nearly 1,000 attorneys working out of their Georgia offices, with Dentons having 52. That size, however, belies the fact that Dentons may be among the best known in Georgia political circles because of its work in the public policy arena.
The US chair of Dentons is prominent attorney Jeff Haidet, and the firm has a long history of operating at the intersection of business, government and the law dating back to its days as Long Aldridge & Norman and later McKenna Long & Aldridge.
“Some of Georgia’s most notable political figures including Zell Miller, Newt Gingrich, Buddy Darden, Matt Towery, Keith Mason, Craig Lesser and Mark Burkhalter all spent time at Dentons,” says Eric Tanenblatt, Global Chair of Public Policy and Regulation at Dentons. “Our firm is the only global law firm in Atlanta with a national fully integrated bipartisan public policy practice with expertise at the federal, state and local levels of government. Our lawyers and professionals are able to apply our decades of experience in government to solving complex issues for our clients.”
While Dentons Atlanta presence may be smaller, its global presence stands alone. “As the world’s largest law firm, Dentons has 200+ offices in over 100 countries. Our global reach is second to none among Atlanta firms, allowing us to provide our clients access to legal and public policy counsel around the world,” Tanenblatt emphasizes.
With all the public policy expertise, Dentons is also well-represented in the civic life of Atlanta. “From the Georgia Chamber, Metro Atlanta Chamber, Cobb Chamber, North Fulton Chamber, Central Atlanta Progress, Council for Quality Growth and the Buckhead Coalition to name a few, you will find Dentons colleagues represented on boards and in positions of leadership,” said Tanenblatt.
Big firms have a commitment to Atlanta
It is interesting to note that Dentons and the other big firms cited in the Law360 article have a deep commitment to Atlanta. “Some of our clients are Atlanta-rooted companies or Atlanta-rooted opportunities,” Josh Kamin, managing partner of the King & Spalding Atlanta office, told Law360. “For us, those are the places where we want to be, because if our Atlanta business ecosystem is going through a material significant transaction, we at King & Spalding want to be a part of it and we want to help that grow, because whether we like it or not, we do wear Atlanta on our sleeve.”
By the way, an up-and-coming power is Hall Booth Smith, founded in 1989 with headquarters in Atlanta. With nearly 400 attorneys across the U.S., it is becoming a heavy hitter in Georgia political/business circles. HBS also recently launched a Reproductive Health Strategic Team, a group of attorneys working to address the legal fallout of the controversial Dobbs ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court.
While it grows its Atlanta presence, HBS is expanding into relatively new territory in the northeast, opening offices in New York and New Jersey during the past couple years. “We look forward to growing our presence in New Jersey & New York regions in the years to come,” said Drew Graham, a longtime partner at HBS who was formerly based at the firm’s Atlanta headquarters office and is leading its new office in Saddle Brook, New Jersey.
Baker Owens is a staff writer for InsiderAdvantage Georgia