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Pullman Adds Education Practice, Expands Downtown Office Space

By Brad Kane

July 01, 2013

Hartford law firm Pullman & Comley will double its space in downtown Hartford and has added a new education practice lifted from a dissolving firm.

Pullman, which has the 13th floor of State House Square, will take over the 14th floor by mid-January as the busting-at-the-seams Hartford practice adds six attorneys and three support staff from Hartford specialty firm Sullivan, Schoen, Campane & Connon.

“Pullman is like a lot of these firms. They are smart. They are agile,” said Mark Dubois, president-elect of the Connecticut Bar Association. “They are building their firm by bringing in these ready-made practices from other firms.”

The addition of the Sullivan lawyers gives Pullman roughly 25 to 35 percent of the education law market in Connecticut.

The new practice expands Pullman into the growing legal area of education, which includes representing schools on labor matters, regulatory claims, federal privacy laws, contractual issues with vendors, and litigation. Former Sullivan attorney William Connon will head up the new school law practice at Pullman.

“Connecticut is the land of steady habits, but it also is the land of ever-increasing laws,” said Michael McKeon, one of the attorneys who transferred from Sullivan.

School districts are facing a growing number of legal challenges, including land use, construction, energy, and social media issues, said McKeon. Since Pullman already has attorneys practicing in these areas, the new attorneys can offer more services to their clients than with the smaller Sullivan.

At Sullivan, a number of the partners had retired, so more of the management burden fell to the six attorneys in the office, taking away time with clients, McKeon said. The entire Sullivan firm moved to Pullman, so the 38-year-old Prospect Avenue business will dissolve.

Moving to Pullman relieves those administrative duties, plus gives the education practice the backing of a marketing department that can help drum up new business.

“They can now devote all their time to the practice of law,” said Robert Morris, chairman of Pullman. “We do try to make things easier for them.”

When the Sullivan attorneys proposed coming over to Pullman, Morris said it felt like a natural fit because so many of their client's new needs could be fulfilled by Pullman's existing practice areas.

Plus, Pullman wants to add a higher education practice, and starting with an education practice seemed like a complementary move to start, Morris said.

“Educational institutions are becoming very sophisticated in how they do legal services,” Morris said.

The addition of the nine new employees did create a workspace issue for Pullman in downtown Hartford. The former Sullivan workers originally moved into the second floor of State House Square when they started May 31, impeding plans to create synergies with Pullman's other practice areas on the 13th floor.

To fix that, Pullman now plans to expand by mid-January into State House Square's 14th floor, where it will take an additional 21,400 square feet of space for a total of 42,800 square feet over the two floors to accommodate many of its practice areas.

“It was a very smooth transition, and they were very welcoming,” McKeon said. “They are like a well-oiled machine.”

Pullman held a welcoming party to integrate the Sullivan attorneys into the firm's culture. This builds toward having all Pullman attorneys being friendly and working hand-in-hand to fulfill as many of clients' legal needs as possible, Morris said.

“They are making a real effort to get to know us,” Morris said. “They are wonderful people.”

The Pullman-Sullivan move is part of a new phase of legal expansion today, as more firms prefer to bring in ready-made practices instead of building their own, said Dubois from the state bar association.

In 2012, Farmington banking and finance law firm Levy & Droney dissolved and its top attorneys joined the Hartford firm Hinckley, Allen & Snyder. In 2011, seven labor relations and employment lawyers from Robinson & Cole jumped ship to McCarter & English, so they could offer more services to clients.

“It used to be law firms would hire young lawyers out of law school,” Dubois said. “Now they are big on lateral hires.”

By grabbing up a significant portion of the state's education law business, Pullman has positioned itself in a growing practice area, Dubois said. More disputes are arising between schools and students, such as the legal requirements for teaching those with special needs.

“This whole education practice is interesting,” Dubois said. “Who would have thought that educating children would be something that is battled out by lawyers?”

By joining forces with Pullman, the former Sullivan attorneys not only can offer schools more legal services but spend more time on those matters and growing the business.

“It allows us to get back to what we want to do: spend more time serving our clients,” McKeon said. “It is a natural fit.”

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Business Journal. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Business Journal Archives at http://www.hartfordbusiness.com/archives.php.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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