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Pair joins Saul Ewing from McGuireWoods

When opportunity came knocking for construction litigation partners Don Rea and Michelle Lipkowitz, they decided to make the move to Saul Ewing LLP.

The two were approached by several different firms about leaving the Baltimore office of McGuireWoods LLP. They said they felt it was the right time to make a change and found Saul Ewing offered the best fit.

“There were a lot of changes at the former firm we were at,” Rea said. “Saul Ewing has the bench that we needed and the capabilities we needed, but we can go to the marketplace with really competitive rates.

“Compared to a lot of major players that are playing in this arena and are of this size, the rates are just better,” he said.

The managing partner in McGuire’s Baltimore office, Ava E. Lias-Booker, was traveling and not available for comment. William Alcott, a spokesman in McGuire’s Richmond-based headquarters, said he did not know of any changes at the Baltimore office, other than planned growth.

He would not say whether McGuire plans to hire construction litigation partners or associates to replace Rea and Lipkowitz, who started last Monday at Saul Ewing.

“We have worked with some phenomenal lawyers over the entire time we were there,” Lipkowitz said. “We have some very, very good friends who I intend to be friends with and referring cases to, etc., for the balance of my career.”

Lipkowitz also said she wanted to join Saul Ewing because many of the friends she has made in the legal community work for the firm, and she said she was impressed by the success they have had at a firm they love.

In Rea and Lipkowitz, Saul Ewing is gaining two partners who have experience litigating in a variety of areas.

Rea is known for his work on construction and real estate disputes and helping to establish and implement the Maryland Business and Technology Case Management Program, which provides specially assigned judges and distinct litigation tracks for business and technology cases in the state’s circuit courts. Lipkowitz focuses on litigation involving contractual disputes, shareholder disputes, consumer class actions and construction, among other things.

The pair went from an office of 30 attorneys at McGuire, which employs 900 attorneys at 19 offices, including two international locations, to a 51-lawyer office across town. Saul Ewing employs more than 240 lawyers and has 10 offices between Washington, D.C., and Boston, including in New York and Philadelphia.

“I frankly think we’re going to be in a better position here, because the Baltimore office was a relatively small satellite office for McGuire, but the Baltimore office here is an economic driving engine for the firm,” Rea said.

Lipkowitz began as an associate to Rea in 2002 at Gordon, Feinblatt, Rothman, Hoffberger & Hollander LLC in Baltimore. Three years later, they both left for McGuireWoods, where Lipkowitz later became a partner.

“One of the key obvious components of her being a part of the team is the diversity she brings to the team, and not just being an African-American woman, but leadership in the community here in Baltimore … her hands are in everything,” Rea said of Lipkowitz.

He said he got a kick out of watching her interview and joked with Lipkowitz’s friend, Saul Ewing hiring partner Jason St. John, that they would both be working for Lipkowitz one day.

“When I was interviewing and Michelle was on a separate interview track, the people around the table said ‘You’re all fine and good, now let’s meet Michelle,’” Rea said. “I was really psyched when she made the decision to come, too.”