Gallop, Johnson & Neuman, a well-known law firm in St. Louis, may wind down operations after nearly 36 years in business as the down economy took a toll on revenue.
"We are engaged in preliminary activities for a potential winding down of the firm," Thomas Campbell, managing partner of the firm that's headquartered in Clayton, said this evening. The mid-sized firm, based in Clayton, has 55 attorneys and more than 700 public, private and nonprofit clients.
Gallop's partners met this week to discuss the firm's future. However, partners have not taken a vote to dissolve the firm, Campbell said.
Responding to speculation that some attorneys were leaving en masse to join other firms, serving as a catalyst for a wind-down, Campbell said that's not true.
"To my knowledge, no individual attorney or group of attorneys have received an offer from another law firm," he said.
Instead, the down economy led the firm's leaders to evaluate its future, he said.
"Our firm has been heavily reliant on transactional work throughout our history and that work has slowed down significantly," Campbell said. Transaction work include such things as contract negotiating and mergers & acquisitions.
A potential move to wind down comes less than a year after the firm launched a new website, GallopLaw.com, and new graphic identity using a single name, Gallop, in a rebranding effort.
Gallop was formed in 1976 by 10 attorneys to serve emerging corporations. It grew quickly, and by 1988, the firm had nearly 60 attorneys. The full-service firm provides legal expertise ranging from real estate law to intellectual property.
"Don Gallop instilled in this firm a passionate service to clients," Campbell said. "That is a passion that has continued and grown stronger."
"The firm will in all likelihood not exist in the future; the lawyers who share those core values of service to clients, that will not end," he continued.
In addition to its local headquarters, Gallop has offices in Washington and Oklahoma City. Those offices will be phased out, Campbell said.
Several attorneys left Gallop in recent months for larger firms, including Rob Cantwell and Mike Adrian, who joined the Clayton office of Lathrop & Gage in January. Kansas City-based Lathrop & Gage has 320 attorneys in 11 offices and the hires boosted its local office to 26 attorneys, said Scott Malin, partner in charge of Lathrop & Gage's local office.
Other firms have resorted to cutting equity partners or laying off workers in the recession's wake.
Earlier this year, Husch Blackwell, which has 600 attorneys, reclassified 25 of its equity partners as fixed-income partners. The move lowered the number of partners who share in the firm's profits.
Thomas Clay, principal at Altman Weil Inc., a legal industry consulting firm based in Newtown Square, Pa., said the recession led many corporate clients to not only to cut back on legal services but also to seek out lower costs, putting pressure on law firms.
“There are a number of firms out there that are struggling,” Clay said. “The biggest dynamic is demands for efficiency, where clients are asking to be billed $30,000 instead of $50,000.”
The last sizable St. Louis law firm to shut down was Popkin & Stern in September 1991. The firm had about 62 attorneys in mid-1990 before it closed its doors and its creditors filed an involuntary bankruptcy in March 1992.