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Ten former partners form breakaway Triangle firm

Posted by: Laurence Simons 19/06/12

Partners from K&L Gates and Womble Carlyle form new North Carolina law firm.

You know when, as a kid, you were rejected for team sports and group play, so you grabbed two of your closest friends and decided to start your own gang? The "No Losers Club," that sort of thing. The "Dodgeball Stinks So Whatever" Collective. Anyway, on an unrelated note: ten former partners from two high-profile Triangle firms have started their own breakaway business.

Morningstar Law Group is made up of ten partners from two giant firms - K&L Gates and Womble Carlyle - and will form a new Morrisville-based law firm, marketing itself as a full-service business specialist.

"We have litigation, intellectual property (IP), real estate, corporate," said former K&L Gates real estate attorney Mack Paul. "We can handle almost all aspects for the emerging middle-market and larger businesses in this region."

And Morningstar co-founder Kenneth G Carroll, formerly of Womble Carlyle's Research Triangle Park office, said the new firm could offer 'more nimble pricing' given its start-up size.

"As you might imagine, large law firms have enormous infrastructure," he said. "To absorb those kinds of expenses, you have higher billing rates. "

With backgrounds in large firms, the ten partners are hoping to bring their experience of working in big business - as well as a number of clients - to the more flexible new firm. Six of the Morningstar founders come from 2,000-strong international firm K&L Gates, while four hail from 70-strong Triangle firm Womble Carlyle.

And it's not just the size of the new business that marks Morningstar out: as Mr Carroll notes, the firm deliberately avoided the traditional naming convention of stringing lead partners' surnames together, and that the firm has deliberately avoided nominating a managing partner.

"We are trying to put in place certain practices that will foster greater collaboration and sharing and collegiality," said Mr Paul. "Those kind of things are harder to do in a 2,000-lawyer firm."

Based in North Carolina, the firm is poised to take advantage of a stream of Triangle law graduates from leading schools in the area, including Duke, UNC-Chapel Hill law school and Campbell University. In a floundering job market, that's as good news for graduates as it is for an expanding firm hoping to rapidly expand.