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Upsizing, downsizing all in the same move

Much like the emerging technology firms he represents, Newt Fowler was seeking growth and expansion for his law practice. He says he found it at Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice LLP, where he starts Monday.

Newt Fowler, left, and Michael Hardy, partners at Womble Carlyle, are part of the new team that specializes in technology and private equity. (The Daily Record/Maximilian Franz)

“We decided we really needed a different type of platform for our practice,” said Fowler. “Our clients need the type of bench in Womble Carlyle’s offices.”

Fowler joins Womble Carlyle after eight years as a partner at Rosenberg Martin Greenberg LLP. Michael Hardy and Shari Bascardi, also partners at Rosenberg Martin, are joining Fowler, who said he is “finalizing terms” with three additional lawyers at the now 41-lawyer regional firm.

While Womble’s Baltimore office is much smaller — Fowler, Hardy and Bascardi will bring the total to 10 lawyers — the North Carolina-based firm has 550 lawyers in offices from here to Charleston, S.C., plus Silicon Valley, a national reach Fowler said would be appealing to clients reluctant to work with a national firm.

Fowler, who is taking his 100-plus clients with him, said Womble’s Baltimore office had been looking for a practice group like his “for a while.” The move will give his clients a deeper field for technology and private equity services as well as in patent law, government contracts and other areas of need.

Keith Mendelson, head of the firm’s Corporate and Securities Practice Group, said in a statement the technology and private equity markets in Northern Virginia, Washington, D.C. and Baltimore have been merging into a regional market.

“And, when you put this Mid-Atlantic-based practice together with our very strong practices in Atlanta and the Carolinas, we believe that we have one of the strongest and most complete tech and private equity practices on the East Coast,” he said.

Fowler said the move was a result of a mutual courtship and called the timing “fortuitous.”

“I think Baltimore is on the verge of becoming a real technology powerhouse,” he said.

Fowler serves as the chairman of the Innovation Alliance and serves on the board of directors of the Maryland Technology Development Corp. Prior to Rosenberg Martin, he spent more than two years as CEO of Community Analytics, a Baltimore-based database startup. Fowler was a partner at Venable LLP from 1985 to 2003.

Fowler had nothing but praise for his former colleagues.

“Rosenberg Martin was wonderful for all of us,” he said. “This was a real tough decision.”

Barry C. Greenberg, the firm’s managing partner, said he was “disappointed” when Fowler delivered his formal resignation — the first time in the firm’s 27 years a partner left for a competitor, he said.

Greenberg added the firm would not be doing as much technology and private equity work moving forward.

“I can’t recreate what Newt did,” he said. “I can’t even try.”

In Fowler’s place, Greenberg envisions a broader practice that can be integrated into its business practice. The firm is already well known for its tax controversy practice and transactional law.

“Our practice is a full-service business practice,” he said. “We want to work with entrepreneurs at every part of their business lives.”


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