While most firms looked to cut expenses and reduce staff in order to survive over the past few years, Greenville’s Gallivan White & Boyd did just the opposite. “We actually infused more capital into that because although the downturn was a challenge for everyone, we strongly believed that it really presented some tremendous opportunities,” said Billy McGee, the firm’s managing shareholder. “We invested more in our efforts to market and develop relationships with clients and prospective clients, and have sustained that for a number of years. Now it’s really paying off.”
Indeed it is. The firm has grown from 23 attorneys when McGee first joined in 1992 to 56 in 2011. It opened a Charlotte office in March with six attorneys and a Columbia office in June with seven lateral hires. The Columbia office has already jumped to 11 attorneys and expects to reach 15 over the next 30 to 60 days, according to John T. Lay — who joined the firm in March and heads up the Columbia office.
Common wisdom has it that litigation practices like Gallivan’s can withstand economic downturns better because businesses will always sue each other. But McGee and Lay don’t think that necessarily was true this time around.
“A lot of companies who didn’t have the resources to pursue litigation walked away and sought a resolution some other way,” Lay said. “And other businesses – corporations, insurers — that have repeat litigation became a lot more conscious about the cost of litigation.”
“One of the things we saw was that clients took a long, hard look at the firms handling their business, and a lot of them reduced the number of law firms that they were using,” McGee added. “If you were one of the firms fortunate to remain on the approved list, which we were, it actually resulted in an increase in business for you, because they were spreading their work over fewer firms. “
Both also said that the opening of the new offices and the addition of new attorneys has created a synergy that allows them to open doors for each other and bring in new business, making the firm well-poised to respond to a market that is loosening.
“The business practice, the products liability practice – they’ve exploded, and those are cases that require a lot of horses,” McGee said. “And a lot of businesses are once again paying for litigation, reacting to litigation and readily defending cases that they were otherwise looking to resolve some other way in recent years.”