Seamless Integration of Expertise Yields Synergies
Scott M. Stevenson, Charlotte Managing Partner; David H. Conaway, Warren P. Kean, Steele B. “Al” Windle III, [Representative] Partners
Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick believes effective legal solutions come from fully understanding clients’ goals, visions, challenges, and obstacles, and knowing how to design answers that align with their values and culture. “Our firm’s culture is still deeply grounded in its Midwestern, straight-forward, no-nonsense work ethic,” confirms Charlotte partner Warren P. Kean. “We credit much of our growth and success on the foundation that was begun in Ohio.
Involved & Evolved
Seamless Integration of ExpertiseYields Synergies of Service
The law firm of Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick believes effective legal solutions come from fully understanding clients’ goals, visions, challenges, and obstacles, and knowing how to design answers that align with their values and culture. These solutions require nimble representation that quickly discerns the important issues from the inconsequential across a wide spectrum of business and legal disciplines.
Originating in Toledo, Ohio, over a century ago, Shumaker is a full-service business law firm and one of the 250 largest in the U.S., with five offices from Ohio to North Carolina to Florida. As its Charlotte office demonstrates, Shumaker’s emphasis on the seamless integration of expertise yields synergies of service for its clients.
Then, in the mid-’80s, when one of the firm’s partners became the CEO of a national company based in Tampa, it was a logical evolution to build a presence in the fast-growing Sun Belt, alongside its surge in manufacturing expansion. So, in 1985, Shumaker opened a Tampa office.
Recognizing the population growth in the Southeast region, and rapidly expanding growth of manufacturing along the I-85 corridor in the Carolinas, when one of Shumaker’s Ohio clients opened a plant in North Carolina, the firm decided to open a Charlotte office in 1988.
A decade later, the firm added a Columbus office to its Ohio service area, and the following decade a Sarasota office to its Florida service area.
Today the firm has over 245 attorneys, 60 paralegals and 500 employees firm-wide. The Charlotte office, just recently moved from First Citizens Bank Tower to Bank of America Plaza, boasts 35 attorneys and 75 total employees, with deep resources and support from its other offices.
“Our firm’s culture is still deeply grounded in its Midwestern, straight-forward, no-nonsense work ethic,” confirms Shumaker Charlotte partner Warren P. Kean. “We credit much of our growth and success on the foundation of high quality service and community involvement that was begun in Ohio, and seek to build on that in our legal practice here in the Carolinas as well as with our community involvement in Charlotte.”
Manufacturing, Construction and Mid-Market
“We serve many industries and practice areas,” comments Shumaker Charlotte partner David H. Conaway, “but what we think makes us stand out is our presence in the manufacturing sector, our presence in the construction sector, and our presence in the mid-market sector (companies with revenue ranging from $10 million to more than $500 million). Manufacturing, construction, and mid-market companies are really the heart and soul of Charlotte.”
Conaway specializes his practice in the manufacturing sector, regarding bankruptcy and insolvency, commercial litigation and contracts.
“We started out representing textile companies, and that’s how we began in the manufacturing sector,” Conaway explains. “We did a lot of insolvency work, representing creditors in bankruptcy cases. When I first came to Charlotte, in Chapter 11 proceedings you either represented the banks, or you represented the debtors, or you represented the vendors in the supply chain that provide goods and services to a company. We decided to focus on the vendor community.
“As the textile industry has declined, we have branched out to other industries, and that’s very complementary to what we do in Ohio,” Conaway continues. “Our Ohio office started out representing suppliers to the auto industry, so it was a natural fit. So now we represent manufacturing companies on anything having to do with their customers or anything having to do with their supply chain. It’s very often a crisis situation or a distress situation. It’s problem solving.”
As a rapidly growing Sun Belt city, Charlotte has long been a city driven by development. As a result, Shumaker’s construction law practice has been a key to their success here. They can represent any participant in the construction industry—from the time the land is purchased through negotiation of the contracts, through the construction process, project close out, final payment, and dispute resolution.
Charlotte native Steele B. “Al” Windle III is a partner in the firm’s Charlotte construction practice and is a graduate of Wake Forest University School of Law. After working for four years at a firm in Atlanta focusing on construction law, he returned home to Charlotte where he practiced solely in construction law for 15 years at another firm before joining Shumaker.
“We have a very strong construction law practice representing owners, architects, engineers, contractors, subcontractors, suppliers, and all aspects of the construction arena,” touts
“We represent many different size companies from very large to small on all types of commercial construction projects. However, our target market is the mid-level construction companies that are privately-owned and have anywhere from $10 million to $250 million in annual revenue. These companies are typically headquartered in or near Charlotte, but they do work wherever their clients take them.
If one of our clients has a project somewhere else in the country, we will go there to handle their legal needs. For example, we have handled cases for our clients in Bangor, Maine, Dugway, Utah, Gulfport, Mississippi, and Key West, Florida. We handle everything from negotiation of the contracts to project close-out and resolution of claims and disputes by negotiation, arbitration or litigation.”
Kean is part of the Charlotte business practice that focuses on middle-market companies and their owners. He came to Shumaker two years ago after spending his prior career with very large international law firms in New York and Charlotte because his passion is representing growing, mid-size companies for which Shumaker is a perfect fit.
“If the company has in-house counsel, we help service their needs,” he explains, “but more often, we’re dealing with substantial companies who do not have a legal department of their own. These companies rely on us to respond to the wide range of legal issues they encounter in operating and growing or selling their businesses.
“We are very much involved in financing, mergers and acquisitions, and other commercial transactions. We also bring to bear the expertise of our other lawyers as needed, including excellent litigators, to help prevent or resolve claims and disputes involving our clients.
“Then, there are the specialty legal services areas that businesses need,” continues Kean. “Employment law, employee benefits, intellectual property, data protection, franchise law, real estate and environmental law, and tax and exit planning, to name a few, are critical needs that we regularly service. This might be in conjunction with a transaction, in connection with some litigation matter, or arise on their own. For example, our employee benefits practice has been very busy with the Affordable Care Act in getting our clients up to speed as that evolves and impacts companies.”
Globalization and Other Trends
Increasing globalization continues to impact businesses of all sizes, and Shumaker is no exception. In addition to domestic clients who have cross-border business activities, an increasing amount of their legal work, particularly in the manufacturing practice, comes from foreign companies that have their U.S. headquarters or other significant operations in the U.S. and Charlotte area.
“It seems like almost every client touches something outside of the country, even if it’s just a supplier,” says Conaway. “We also have clients that are exporting, so globalization is huge. If, as a lawyer, you don’t have some kind of global capability, I think there are a lot of missed opportunities to add value for our clients.”
In response to these globalization trends, in lieu of establishing a brick and mortar presence abroad, the firm is developing Shumaker Global, a series of alliances that will allow it to serve its clients’ cross-border needs. “It’s evolving, but we made a conscious decision that we needed to have global capability,” states Conaway.
Many domestic law firms establish alliances with an international law group, but Shumaker decided to take a different path. It elected to slowly develop its own alliances based on the relationships that its lawyers have developed over the years with law firms around the world.
“A lot of our lawyers have had opportunities over the years to interact and do cross-border work,” explains Conaway. “They now know the lawyers abroad, so we organize all of those relationships. We have excellent overseas relationships including in Canada, Mexico, Central America, Brazil, and throughout Europe.”
“These are truly relationships that we have developed,” he continues. “We invest in them. We get to know them. We work with them. We add value for each other’s clients.”
In addition to globalization, Shumaker’s clients are feeling greater and greater pressure from investors to maximize profits. That impacts every aspect of their business.
It seems like Wall Street and private equity funds are having a much greater say in how companies are run,” admits Conaway. “We see a lot of companies that sell business units just because some shareholder in New York has told them to. As a lawyer, you have to understand that. You have to understand what is driving them and what pressures they’re under.”
Somewhat surprisingly, in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, Chapter 11 bankruptcy cases have declined significantly nationally, principally, Conaway says, because lenders stopped providing debtor-in-possession financing. With near zero interest rates, companies could perform poorly and still get by, and on top of that, lenders kicked the can down the road because they didn’t want to write off bad loans against their capital reserves that were being closely watched by the Fed. Instead of bankruptcies, there have been a lot of work outs. Conaway thinks that is going to change over the next couple of years.
“From 2008 through 2011, the loans kind of stopped,” he observes. “Then they started making more loans, so now is about the time the loan cycle comes back and covenants are being breached. I’ve seen it before. It’s just a matter of when it hits.”
Finding the Sweetspot: Relationships
Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick has a very decentralized management and operating structure. The firm is managed by an executive committee made up of managing partners from each office. Most of the administrative and accounting staff is located in Toledo, but some key marketing and IT staff are located in other offices.
Shumaker is really organized by practice area, and with offices in three states, the firm can call on specific legal expertise, regardless of where the attorney is located.
“As an example, we have an excellent lawyer in Toledo who is a whiz on insurance for the construction industry,” explains Windle. “Whenever we have an issue involving insurance coverage, we get him involved and he comes down here. He’s even tried cases in the federal court here in Charlotte.”
“We’re at a size where we generally know everyone,” adds Kean. “We know who to call, and it doesn’t make any difference whether that person is in the office next to mine or in Columbus or in Tampa. I know where the expertise is.”
Shumaker fills an important niche between the large mega firms that may have 1,000 or more attorneys and the smaller, more entrepreneurial firms with 10 or fewer attorneys.
“We’ve seen a lot of consolidation and a number of larger firms have grown substantially. As a result, their focus is now on a different client base,” remarks Kean. “On the other hand, the smaller firms simply don’t have the capability to provide that full range of services that our core clientele need and demand.
“The middle has more or less been hollowed out, and that’s where Shumaker’s focus is. With 245 lawyers, we’re able to provide full service to businesses and business owners, and that remains our core focus.”
“The basis of our practice is relationships,” concludes Windle. “I’ve been practicing for over 30 years, and we still represent some of the same people from when I first started. We try to not only be a lawyer and a businessman—but maybe a little bit more than that, if only just a friend. It’s a relationship.”
Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick, LLP
101 South Tryon St., Ste. 2200
Charlotte, N.C. 28280
Principals: Scott M. Stevenson, Charlotte Managing Partner; David H. Conaway, Warren P. Kean, Steele B. “Al” Windle III, [Representative] Partners
In Business: Since 1925
Offices Established: Toledo, Ohio (1925); Tampa, Fla. (1985); Charlotte, N.C. (1988); Columbus, Ohio (1998); Sarasota, Fla. (2009)
Personnel: 35 attorneys and 75 total employees in Charlotte; over 245 attorneys, 60 paralegals, and 500 employees firm-wide
Recognition: Am Law 200 and National Law Journal Top 250 law firm; 114 AV Peer Review Rated by Martindale-Hubbell; 28 Board Certified Attorneys, 16 Certified Mediators and Arbitrators, 82 Best Lawyers in America; 53 Super Lawyers and Rising Stars
Business: A full-service business law firm with specific expertise in the manufacturing, construction and mid-market sectors.