15 attorneys leave LeClairRyan to form new firm

By Amanda Becker
Monday, June 7, 2010

Fifteen attorneys have left Richmond-based LeClairRyan to form Murphy & McGonigle, a firm specializing in advising financial services clients during lawsuits, government investigations and enforcement actions.

The firm, which opened for business on June 2, will have three offices, in Washington, New York and Richmond, and a roster of attorneys with extensive experience dealing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

"The only thing that's going to change is the letterhead and the phone number," said co-founder Thomas J. McGonigle of the continuity the attorneys' clients can expect.

McGonigle, who advised brokers, banks and individuals on securities and investment regulation at LeClairRyan, is one of six attorneys at the new firm who have worked within the SEC, most holding senior positions. These attorneys make up a "core group that has really been together since 1984 when we worked at the SEC," McGonigle said.

Co-founder James A. Murphy, who will also serve as the firm's chairman, is a litigator who helped Wachovia win a dismissal in a class-action lawsuit against five banks that alleged "cash sweep" programs had deprived investors by not disclosing that funds would be put into standard deposit accounts instead of money market funds. Murphy has also advised companies in investigations by state attorneys general, the SEC and other regulatory bodies.

"Because of our specialty in securities litigation and regulation ... it's a good time to be out there as a specialty firm to handle these matters for clients," McGonigle said.

McGonigle characterized the split from LeClairRyan as friendly and said the attorneys were simply seeking the flexibility of a smaller firm.

"We felt being smaller would allow us to be more nimble in terms of our pricing and our ability to take on matters without conflicts," McGonigle said.

In addition to the firm's partners and associates, there will be contract attorneys and administrative staff based in a "low overhead environment" in Virginia, according to the firm's release. Though there is no imminent plan to hire aggressively, McGonigle said growth is a long-term goal.

"We think a smaller platform with that flexibility will be something that's attractive to our colleagues," McGonigle said.

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