Most of the Larger Law Firms Continue to Grow

by John Henry  on Monday, Jun. 9, 2003 12:00 am  

(Click here to see the list of the state's largest law firms.)

With few exceptions, the biggest law firms in the state have gotten bigger in the past year.

The largest firm in the state is Friday Eldredge & Clark LLP, which is now up to 85 lawyers. The firm traces its roots to 1871.

William H. Sutton became chairman of the firm in 1994 after Herschel Friday died in a plane crash, and the firm has continued to grow. It also has offices at Fayetteville and Blytheville.

The battle to be No. 2 in the state is nip and tuck between Wright Lindsey & Jennings LLP, which had 60 lawyers last year but now has only 55, and Mitchell Williams Selig Gates & Woodyard PLLC, which has grown to 54 from last year's 51. The Wright firm has been around since 1900.

No. 4 on the list is the Rose Law Firm PA, which lays claim to being the oldest law firm west of the Mississippi River. Founded in 1820, the firm has 34 lawyers.

On the flip side, some upstarts are well on their way up the list.

Wilson & Associates PLLC, which concentrates on representing the real estate and mortgage banking industry, was founded by Robert M. Wilson Jr. in 1978. The firm opened a Tennessee division in 1995 with offices now in Memphis, Nashville and Knoxville, although the production office remains in Little Rock.

The firm now has 36 lawyers, 33 based in Arkansas and three in Tennessee. Wilson said he uses a different business model than most law firms, and if ranked by total employees it would probably be the largest in the state with 312 employees.

Quattlebaum Grooms Tull & Burrow PLLC also has shown rapid growth. Created when five lawyers left Williams & Anderson in 2000, the firm recently added its 19th lawyer and No. 20 is scheduled to start in September, said partner Steve Quattlebaum.

Another law firm, new to the list this year because of recent growth, is Roberts Law Firm P.A. It has had as many as 12 lawyers, but now has 11 and is looking to add another, according to Michael Roberts, who formed the firm with his brother, Gary "Bud" Roberts, in 1992.

Much of the practice is devoted to litigation — torts, construction law, antitrust litigation, insurance defense and workers' compensation, Mike Roberts said.

"We're not trying to be a big firm," he said. "We simply try to add another lawyer when the workload dictates it. And we're looking for one now."

As has long been the case, the largest firms are based in Little Rock. The only firm in the top 10 not headquartered in the capital city is Kutak Rock LLP, whose home base is in Omaha, Neb. But the firm has found fertile ground here as it has steadily grown to 20 lawyers in Arkansas.

The largest Arkansas firms outside Little Rock are the Bassett Law Firm at Fayetteville, Warner Smith & Harris PLC of Fort Smith and Bridges Young Matthews & Drake PLC of Pine Bluff, each with 14 lawyers.

Bar Association Meeting

The 105th annual Arkansas Bar Association meeting will start Wednesday at the Arlington Hotel in Hot Springs.

During the session, some 48 hours of approved continuing legal education credit will be offered. Lawyers can earn up to 21.75 hours of credit during the annual meeting. Nine of those hours are being offered in ethics.

On Thursday there will be a theatrical presentation of Clarence Darrow presenting his most famous arguments. Following the presentation, former U.S. Sen. Dale Bumpers will join a panel discussing issues raised by Darrow.

Current President Murray Clay-comb will preside over the House of Delegates meeting on Saturday.

Incoming President Thomas A. Daily will be sworn in at a noontime luncheon on Friday.



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