The days when Atlanta’s reputation as the commercial hub for the Southeast was belittled due to a lack of venture capital to help grow local firms are over, according to Joseph Silver, managing partner of the Atlanta office of the global law firm DLA Piper.
“Here in Atlanta we work with private equity firms, venture capital firms, strategic investors and major corporations on their investment and m&a transactions,” he told Global Atlanta during an interview in his Midtown office.
Mr. Silver immediately cited his firm’s top rankings in venture capital and private equity deal volumes among global firms. He did slightly temper his comments by quickly adding that “It is true that there is not an abundance of local venture firms, you do have some like Fulcrum Equity Partners, Noro-Mosely Partners and Tech Operators LLC and other groups that have been around for quite a while.”
From his perspective at a firm with offices in 40 countries and more than 30 in the United States, the source of investment is now not regional or even national but truly global.
“The more successful exits that we see,” he said, “the more and more funds are getting started. There are out of region funds coming into the Southeast which also are working with groups starting funds down here.”
Having grown up in Atlanta and attending law school at the University of Georgia, Mr Silver isn’t surprised by the city’s economic stature and points to the growing health IT and health care services sectors as well as technology firms and what he calls staffing services that are focused on providing workers who can manage the convergence of technology with service companies.
Since the firm’s Atlanta office opened in 2006, it has grown to have 40 lawyers and is looking for more. “We always are looking for practitioners and associates,” he said, “and I’m meeting with candidates every week or every other week for people looking to have a national and international practice.Those who want to focus on the Southeast may not find this to be the best place for them.”
Lawyers with international expertise also have been attracted to the firm, he said, such as Steven Park whose practice is focused on patent litigation and licensing, as well as counseling on patent portfolio management and enforcement of IP rights in the U.S. and abroad and Frank Layson who co-leads the firm’s m&a relationship with General Electric and focuses his practice on mergers, acquisitions, joint ventures and strategic alliances domestically and internationally.
The firm’s international perspective dates back to its founding 13 years ago when former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell and others had the vision to serve companies globally. Mr. Mitchell, who retired as the Senate’s majority leader in 1995 and went on take a leading role in negotiations for peace in Northern Ireland and the Middle East, having been appointed the U.S.’s special envoy for Northern Ireland (1995–2001) by President Clinton and as the U.S.’s special envoy for Middle East Peace (2009–2011) by President Obama, is currently the firm’s chairman emeritus.
The Atlanta office benefits from the presence of former U.S. Senator Saxby Chambliss. who represented Georgia in the Senate for two terms and in the U.S. House for four terms. While in the House he chaired the House Intelligence Subcommittee on Terrorism and Homeland Security and became a leading authority on security issues, an important growth area for DLA Piper, Mr. Silver said.
DLA Piper was formed in January 2005 by a merger among three law firms: San Diego-based Gray Cary Ware and Freidenrich LLP, Baltimore-based Piper Rudnick LLP and United Kingdom-based DLA LLP and is composed of two partnerships, the U.K.-based DLA Piper International LLP and the U.S.-based DLA Piper LLP (US).
“Other firms are doing it,” Mr. Silver added, “but we feel we have a 10, 12-year head start.”
As a global firm, it decided not to have a headquarters, he said, so that all offices would feel that they are on an equal footing and are connected by Cisco Systems teleconference equipment that decentralizes the management of the firm “and saves a lot money,” he said, while assuring the connectivity needed to serve the global interests of its clients.