By Meredith Hobbs, Staff Reporter, Daily Report (June 15, 2011) — Two former King & Spalding tort litigators have reunited to start their own firm, Carroll Weiss. Jamie B. Carroll was a partner at King & Spalding before leaving at the end of 2010 to open a solo tort defense practice. Michael L. Weiss, an associate who’d worked with Carroll, joined him from King & Spalding on June 1 to form Carroll Weiss.
Carroll, who is 49, said he launched his own practice because of the changing business model for big firms, plus the recession. “The recession certainly affected clients,” said Carroll, “but even before that there was more emphasis on cost-containment.”
He said he started out at King & Spalding in 1991 defending auto cases for big manufacturers, the bread and butter of the firm’s tort litigation practice before it diversified. Along the way, he developed smaller clients, who came with him when he went out on his own in January.
Carroll said he gravitated toward smaller clients because he had more contact with the decision-makers. But as time went on, they started to balk at big-firm rates, particularly for associates and paralegals. “What I found in negotiating rates was that the easiest rate to negotiate was mine,” he said. “They were glad to pay me to do the work, but they found the leverage increasingly distasteful.”
They didn’t like paying associates $395 and paralegals $150 to $195 per hour, he added.
Carroll said he represents the three largest U.S. window blind manufacturers—Hunter Douglas, Springs Industries Inc. and Newell Rubbermaid—as well as a trade group, the Window Covering Manufacturers Association. Tort cases arise involving children getting tangled in window blind cords.
Olympus America Inc., which makes colonoscopes and bronchoscopes, is another client. Carroll defends the company mostly in suits over disease transmission and also tissue punctures suffered by hospital patients. He also represents trade associations such as the American National Standards Institute, which he said has been sued in cases alleging that cell phones cause brain cancer because of its involvement in the process for establishing cell phone standards.
Carroll said he thought about opening his own firm for about a year before taking the plunge. He ran the idea by his clients, telling them his standard rate, which ranged from $515 to $575 per hour at King & Spalding, would drop to $395 per hour. “Every person I talked to asked ‘Where do I sign?'” he said.
Carroll said his departure was amicable. “The firm was very gracious,” he added.
While Carroll Weiss’ focus is defense work, Carroll said the two lawyers are open to representing some plaintiffs, as long as there are no business conflicts.
Carroll said Weiss, 41, had worked for him since he was a summer associate. He’d planned to ask the younger lawyer to join him after a year, once he’d seen how business shaped up, but instead had enough work to recruit Weiss after only six months.
“Every client that I have knows Mike,” said Carroll, adding that he’d been using a part-time associate and paralegal until now.
Weiss, 41, spent five years as a reporter at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution before going to law school at Emory University. He joined King & Spalding after graduating from Emory in 2003.
“I always wanted to have my own shop. This seems like a good time to do it,” he said.
The two are setting up a Buckhead office at 1819 Peachtree Road in the Peachtree Palisades building, which Weiss said they are moving into today.
J. Timothy McDonald has joined Thompson Hine as a partner from Rogers & Hardin. McDonald handles employment litigation. He worked for Thompson Hine once before—as a summer clerk at the firm’s Cleveland headquarters in 1988, while he was in law school at Case Western Reserve University.
William B. Wood has formed his own firm in Lawrenceville after 28 years at Smith, Gambrell & Russell, where he was a partner. Wood joined Smith, Cohen, Ringel, Kohler & Martin in 1983, which later merged with Gambrell & Russell to become Smith, Gambrell & Russell. Wood serves as outside general counsel to companies and handles state and local tax matters. He is an adjunct professor of corporate tax at the University of Georgia’s law school, his alma mater.
Sutherland has appointed James L. Henderson III, the firm’s former managing partner, as its first chief diversity officer. He will be responsible for fostering diversity in Sutherland’s recruiting, professional development, public service and client and practice development. The new position is an outgrowth of the firm’s 34-person diversity and inclusion committee, according to a statement from the firm. Henderson is a partner in Sutherland’s corporate practice in New York and Atlanta. He served as the firm’s managing partner from 1996 to 2005.
Howard S. Hirsch has been elected a shareholder at Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz. A securities lawyer who handles real estate investment trusts, Hirsch joined Baker Donelson as of counsel in 2009 from Bryan Cave.
Legal recruiter Major, Lindsey & Africa has named Catherine Butts a partner. Butts, who focuses on in-house recruiting, is one of seven new partners at the firm, which has offices nationally.
Lindsay C. Verity became the new president of the Georgia Association for Women Lawyers at the group’s annual dinner on May 11. Verity, who directs the Grandparent/Relative Caregiver Project at the Atlanta Legal Aid Society, also was awarded GAWL’s Visionary Award at the dinner.
R. Wayne Thorpe has been elected to the board of directors of JAMS, a mediation and arbitration firm.
Ford & Harrison partner Patricia G. Griffith has been named the chair of the board of directors of the Atlanta Shakespeare Company.
Jones Day partner Deborah A. Sudbury has been appointed chair of the board of trustees for the Atlanta International School.
Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi has relocated from Buckhead to Midtown. The firm has leased 23,000 square feet in One Atlantic Center at 1201 W. Peachtree St. Robins Kaplan was previously located at 950 E. Paces Ferry Road.