Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Stories of the year: In law, a new firm, new leaders and a messy dispute

Following a year full of merger activity for Maryland’s largest firms, 2018 saw the aftereffects of a legal market where firms are growing and partners are seeking new opportunities. There were leadership changes,  the arrival of a new firm in Baltimore and a highly publicized legal dispute between the state’s largest law firm and a former principal over back pay.

The Maryland bar as a whole is in transition as it saw the lowest number of bar exam passers and exam takers in decades, as the state gets ready to offer the Uniform Bar Exam to prospective attorneys starting next year.

Here’s a look back at some of the top stories in the business of law.

1. New leadership at Miles & Stockbridge

Nancy Greene and Joseph Hovermill now lead Miles & Stockbridge.

Nancy W. Greene and Joseph W. Hovermill now lead Miles & Stockbridge.

Miles & Stockbridge PC opened a new chapter in its leadership in February as it named Nancy W. Greene chairman, making her the first woman to lead the Baltimore-based firm in its 86-year history. Joseph W. Hovermill, who has served as president and chief operating officer since 2015, was named president and chief executive officer of the firm. Greene and Hovermill succeeded John B. Frisch, who announced his retirement last year.

The announcement marked a change in the firm’s leadership structure, allowing the attorneys to maintain their respective practices.

Greene, a board member since 2017, was most recently co-leader of the firm’s real estate and transactional finance practice group. Hovermill has been a board member since 2011 and senior member of the firm’s products liability and mass torts practice group. Each of the attorneys on the new leadership team had at least 20 years of experience with the firm before they were appointed to lead the firm.

2. Nelson Mullins comes to Baltimore

Michael A. Brown left Miles & Stockbridge PC to lead Nelson Mullins’ litigation team. File Photo)

Michael A. Brown left Miles & Stockbridge PC to lead Nelson Mullins’ litigation team. File Photo)

Also in February, South Carolina-based Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP announced it was opening a Baltimore office with 11 partners from Miles & Stockbridge. The announcement came just a day after the leadership change at Miles & Stockbridge, though the timing was said to be a coincidence.

The new Nelson Mullins office on 100 S. Charles St. includes a litigation team led by Michael A. Brown and a corporate group with Timothy A. Hodge, who is also office managing partner.

The new Baltimore office strengthens Nelson Mullins’ key practice areas, including products liability, in the automotive, medical device and pharmaceutical industries, as well as the firm’s middle-market mergers & acquisitions practice, the firm said.

Nelson Mullins has offices along the East Coast, from Boston to Florida, and in Denver and Los Angeles.

3. Former firm principal sues Miles & Stockbridge

Donald E. English Jr. won his lawsuit against Miles & Stockbridge for back pay.

Donald E. English Jr. won his lawsuit against Miles & Stockbridge for back pay.

The Baltimore legal community saw an unusually public dispute between the largest law firm in the state and a former equity principal this summer, a dispute that will continue into 2019.

Donald E. English Jr., now a non-equity partner at Jackson Lewis PC in Baltimore, sued his old firm, Miles & Stockbridge, alleging the firm reduced his salary and “clawed back” nearly $60,000 the firm had paid him, according to the lawsuit.

After a lengthy trial over three weeks, a Baltimore city jury awarded English more than $231,000, including treble damages.

Since that verdict, English’s attorneys have filed a motion for almost $776,000 in attorneys’ fees from his old firm, an amount attorneys representing Miles & Stockbridge called “astronomical.” Both parties have filed intents to appeal the trial court decision.

4. Maryland bar pass rate hits historic lows

Both the February and July Maryland bar exam results hit historic lows both in the number of people who took the exam and the number of passers.

Luckily, for graduates from the two Maryland law schools taking the test, the drop in this year’s pass rate appears to be driven by repeat test takers, as the number of first-time takers who passed the July exam was on par with the past two years at 71 percent.

Among first-time takers at the Maryland schools, 84 percent of graduates from the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law passed the July exam. Among graduates of the University of Baltimore, 71 percent of first-time takers passed the test. The February pass rate for both schools also held steady.

The large drop-off in number of test takers this summer may have been because law students in Washington opted to take the Uniform Bar Exam in the District of Columbia, which adopted the test in March 2016 and saw a record number of takers this summer.

The UBE is expected to be implemented in Maryland for the July 2019 exam.

5. Offit Kurman takes the Big Apple

'One of the reasons we’re able to grow is that we have been a risk-taking firm in a risk-averse marketplace,' says Ted Offit, right, of Offit Kurman. Ted Offit, Maurice Offit, left, and Howard Kurman, center, formed their firm 30 years ago. (Maximilian Franz/The Daily Record)

‘One of the reasons we’re able to grow is that we have been a risk-taking firm in a risk-averse marketplace,’ says Ted Offit, right, of Offit Kurman. Ted Offit, Maurice Offit, left, and Howard Kurman, center, formed their firm 30 years ago. (Maximilian Franz/The Daily Record)

It’s been a busy year for Offit Kurman, as the Maple Lawn-based firm stays on track to be a 200-lawyer firm by 2020. After a series of acquisitions throughout 2018, the firm’s largest office is now in New York City.

In October, the firm announced it was acquiring Manhattan law firm Salon Marrow Dyckman Newman & Broudy LLP, effective Jan. 1. Thirty full-time lawyers for the firm will be based in New York City with the Salon Marrow addition. Offit Kurman started with two lawyers in that office at the beginning of the year.

Earlier this year, Offit Kurman made its first moves in New York City by absorbing Eaton & Van Winkle and then Menaker & Herrmann.

Offit Kurman has more than 170 attorneys across 12 offices in the mid-Atlantic. While the firm’s initial plan was to have as many as 50 attorneys in New York, Offit Kurman is looking at a larger presence in the region, including in New Jersey, Westchester County, Long Island and Connecticut.


To purchase a reprint of this article, contact [email protected].