Bartholomew readies for company growth

Wednesday, June 1, 2005 at 1:00am

Why did your firm merge with Adams & Reese?

Part of the reason was Adams & Reese's Mid-South footprint. In addition, they take a seamless practice group management approach without focusing on a central headquarters. The past chairman was from the Mobile [Ala.] office. The managing partner is from the Jackson [Miss.] office. And the firm's largest offices are in New Orleans, Houston and Birmingham. Typically in this profession, the central office makes most decisions. In contrast, the Adams & Reese approach is geared more towards providing client service with the best and most qualified attorneys for the legal issue that is being dealt with.

Any idea as to the merger costs, lawyer relocation, etc.?

Conversation with a leader
Sam Bartholomew, founder and chairman, Stokes Bartholomew Evans & Petree
Hometown: Nashville
Education: B.S. degree, the United States Military Academy; J.D., Vanderbilt University
Age: 60
First conventional job: Officer in the armored cavalry branch of the U.S. Army
Hypothetical dream job: Football coach at Army

A founder and chairman of Nashville-based Stokes Bartholomew Evans & Petree P.A., Bartholomew has extensive experience in several of the law firm's practice areas, including those involving corporations, government relations, economic development, health care and aviation. With the recently announced merger of Adams & Reese and Stokes Bartholomew, effective June 30 (at which point the firm will be known as Adams Reese/Stokes Bartholomew), Bartholomew is busy preparing for the change. He will serve as chairman emeritus of the merged entity's Tennessee office.

The merger should not require any relocation of Tennessee attorneys. I'm uncertain as to the exact cost, but we anticipate a smooth transition.

What are the merger's advantages to Stokes Bartholomew?

Perhaps the key benefit is the ability to better serve our client base, bringing more specific talent to deal with complex and specialized issues as well as the geographic outreach in half a dozen states. The Washington, D.C., office will provide a significant opportunity for us. Stokes Bartholomew has had a need for a Washington office at various times in the past, and we actually opened a [D.C.] office briefly in the 1980s. But our practice was not significant enough at that time to make it work.

Was your firm under-performing prior to the merger?

We felt like our current size was awkward to service the kind of client base that we have. The practical solution was to become part of a firm that has a much broader base. For instance, Adams & Reese has a number of patent lawyers who recently met with some of our local clients. This is an example of the specialized legal practice, because our firm had no patent attorneys. Together, we will have about 300 lawyers and will be one of the largest law firms in the Mid-South.

Statewide, Stokes Bartholomew is a significant firm soon to be associated with a much larger and more influential regional firm. Has Nashville's legal community seen many such mergers in recent years?

We are the only firm to merge with a Mid-South law firm. Over the past several years, there have been a number of firms, primarily from Kentucky and Ohio, that have merged with smaller Nashville firms or opened local branches. Some of these firms have done quite well, and regional practices are growing across the country. But let me add that size is not necessarily the most important thing in practicing law.

With the merger, how will your leadership structure change?

Our firm will have a number of leadership positions in the merged firm. Cindy Barnett will be the principal partner responsible for the Nashville office. Other attorneys in key leadership roles include Mitch Boult, Rick Holton and Gif Thornton.

What emotions does this merger evoke?

Having started the firm with three lawyers in 1973, we have been blessed with steady and significant growth. And I see this as a opportunity to provide more and better legal service to our client base. I believe this will create a much better platform for the younger lawyers in our firm.

Recap the past few years regarding some Stokes Bartholomew cases.

Recent cases of note include leading the prosecution in the high-profile battle over copyrighted music interests on the Internet against in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York; defending a Big Four accounting firm in federal class-action securities litigation; prosecuting the bad-faith refusal to pay millions of dollars of medical claims on behalf of the nation's largest health care company in ERISA [the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act] and insurance litigation; prosecution of numerous intellectual-property infringement actions, including the trial of a complex trademark-infringement action in the highly technical systems integration industry; prosecution of an unauthorized "slam" Web site in U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York; and defense of a $900 million federal antitrust case involving complex intellectual-property issues in the U.S. District Court in Utah.

What are your leadership strengths and weaknesses?

Perhaps my attempt to balance the profession, family and faith has improved as I have gotten older. To paraphrase Gen. Douglas MacArthur, older lawyers like myself won't quit - they'll just fade away. My main weakness is that I am often accused of allowing too much debate and discussion of the issues facing legal management questions. I'm confident I have many other weaknesses.

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