ATLANTA and CHICAGO (April 1, 2023) – Smith, Gambrell & Russell, LLP and Freeborn & Peters, LLP announced today that they have completed their combination, effective April 1, creating a global Am Law 150 law firm operating under the Smith Gambrell Russell name. The combined firm is led by SGR managing partner and executive committee chair, Stephen M. Forte, with legacy SGR and Freeborn partners serving in other key leadership roles, including on the combined firm’s executive and compensation committees. The legacy firms – with a shared strategic vision and complementary high-value, top-tier markets and practice areas – announced on January 24 that their respective partnerships had voted unanimously to approve the combination.
With strong transactional and litigation platforms, the combined SGR has nearly 400 attorneys in 14 domestic and global offices. Based on 2022 metrics, the combined firm would have ranked approximately 132 on the 2022 Am Law 200 and 116 on the NLJ 500.
“We have talked all along about SGR’s and Freeborn’s similar cultures and shared vision for accelerated, strategic growth in complementary geographic markets and practice areas, and I am excited about bringing that vision to life,” Forte said. “This combination expands the platform both nationally and internationally for both firms and lays the groundwork for future execution of our shared strategic plan.”
“The integration of our firms began on the day our respective partnerships approved the combination, with the goal of achieving a seamless transition for our clients, attorneys, and staff,” said Joseph T. McCullough IV, chair of Freeborn’s executive committee at the time of the combination, and a member of the combined firm’s executive committee. “The collaboration we have already witnessed over the last month has been exceptional and is exactly what I would have hoped for from two firms that shared so much in common. We have already generated substantial new business for the combined firm that neither legacy firm would have been able to win on its own.”
The new SGR aligns both legacy firms’ practice area strengths. SGR’s existing branded national and global practices, particularly corporate and other transactional disciplines, are areas that Freeborn had sought to grow. In addition, SGR’s domestic and global aviation finance, international transactional and intellectual property practices are complemented by the international arbitration, commercial litigation, bankruptcy and insurance and reinsurance practices that were strengths of Freeborn.
The combination also creates geographic synergies, with lawyers concentrated in high-value, top-tier markets, including Atlanta (approximately 140 lawyers), Chicago (approximately 90 lawyers), and New York (approximately 50 lawyers). The combined SGR also has three offices in the important Florida market, adding Freeborn’s legacy Tampa office to existing SGR locations in Jacksonville and Miami. Internationally, SGR’s London and Munich offices add Freeborn’s commercial litigation capabilities to its existing global corporate strengths. SGR’s new, expanded footprint forms the foundation for future growth in all key markets, domestically and internationally.
The following legacy Freeborn attorneys will serve in leadership roles on key committees in the combined firm:
- Freeborn legacy partners McCullough and Matthew O’Hara become members of the SGR executive committee, joining SGR attorneys Forte, Peter Barlow, Steven E. Brust, John Ethridge Jr., Thomas H. Hong, John McCarthy and Justice Leah Ward Sears.
- Sean Keely joins the combined firm’s compensation committee.
Legacy Freeborn partners will also hold practice group leadership positions throughout the new SGR, including:
- Litigation Department co-heads – Steven D. Pearson (Freeborn) and Edward D. Burch Jr. (SGR)
- Insurance/Reinsurance Department head – McCullough
- Bankruptcy Practice head – Shelly DeRousse
- Real Estate Department co-heads – Michael A. Moynihan (Freeborn) and William S. Rogers Jr. (SGR)
- Chicago Corporate Section head – Kenneth M. Crane
- Chicago Intellectual Property Section head – Jeffrey J. Catalano
- Chicago Litigation Section co-heads – Terrence J. Sheahan (Freeborn) and Peter A. Silverman (SGR)
- New York Litigation Section head – Keely
- General Counsel – Steven M. Hartmann (Freeborn), Edward Wasmuth Jr. (SGR) and Daniel D. Zegura (SGR)
At the office level, William Russell (Freeborn) joins James R. Figliulo (SGR) in co-managing the Chicago office, while Jason P. Stearns (Freeborn) is managing partner of the Tampa office.
About Smith Gambrell Russell
SGR is a full-service, international law firm that advises regional, national and global businesses on a wide range of legal matters. The firm’s nearly 400 attorneys provide legal counsel in more than 50 specialized practice areas, including corporate transactions, litigation, intellectual property, aviation, banking, real estate, insurance/reinsurance, construction, employment law, international, and employee benefits and executive compensation. Founded in 1893, SGR has 14 domestic and international offices, including Atlanta; Austin; Charlotte; Chicago; Jacksonville, Fla.; London; Los Angeles; Miami; Munich; New York; Southampton; Springfield, Ill.; Tampa, Fla.; and Washington, D.C.