Troutman Sanders to merge with Philadelphia law firm, double in size

Troutman Sanders, based in Bank of America Plaza, will grow to about 1,100 lawyers nationwide through a combination with the Philadelphia firm Pepper Hamilton.

Credit: Johnny Crawford

Credit: Johnny Crawford

Troutman Sanders, based in Bank of America Plaza, will grow to about 1,100 lawyers nationwide through a combination with the Philadelphia firm Pepper Hamilton.

Troutman Sanders, one of Atlanta’s oldest and largest law firms, is set to nearly double in size, potentially climbing into the nation’s top 50.

The firm on Thursday approved a merger with Pepper Hamilton, a Philadelphia-based firm, giving the combined firm more than 1,100 lawyers and 23 offices nationwide. All of Troutman’s 550 Atlanta-based workers, including attorneys and back-office staff, are expected to remain in its current office in Bank of America Plaza.

“We will continue to grow on the lawyer side, but the merger itself won’t change the number of employees in Atlanta,” said Steve Lewis, an Atlanta attorney who will retain his position as the firm’s managing partner.

The combined firm will be called Troutman Pepper, though its legal name will be Troutman Pepper Hamilton Sanders. The Sanders name comes from former Gov. Carl Sanders, who served as its chairman emeritus.

Troutman, founded in Atlanta in 1897, has long advised some of the city's best-known companies, including Georgia Power and Turner Broadcasting System. Its attorneys also represent an inmate, Devonia Inman, who is trying to use DNA results to overturn his conviction of a South Georgia murder. Troutman's lawyers are not accepting payment for their work for Inman.

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The merger with Pepper Hamilton will help Troutman vault into the top 50 largest firms in the U.S., based on yearly revenue, according to industry publication American Lawyer. Its 2020 rankings have not yet been released, but Troutman could move past Alston & Bird to become Atlanta’s second-largest law firm. The publication estimated that Troutman Pepper will generate more than $900 million in yearly revenue, more than the $812 million in revenue that Alston posted in 2019.

Big law firms have been involved in “merger mania” in recent years, as they seek greater economies of scale, more diversified sources of income and broader geographic reach, said Shannan Rahman, managing partner of the Atlanta legal recruiting firm The Partners Group. Troutman Pepper could eventually trim staff to cut costs, she said.

“It’s a definite possibility and something we have seen happen in previous law firm mergers,” Rahman said.

Troutman sought a combination with Pepper Hamilton to expand into new cities, including Boston, Detroit and Pittsburgh, Lewis said. The merged firm will also offer more services to existing clients, he said, as Pepper Hamilton is known for its work advising pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers in product liability cases, while Troutman is known for its energy, financial services and insurance expertise.

Troutman isn’t the only Atlanta law firm to make a major strategic move this week. King & Spalding, the largest Atlanta-based firm, on Wednesday hired former U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who joins its Washington, D.C., office. After James Comey was fired as Attorney General, Rosenstein appointed Robert Mueller to lead the investigation into ties between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 election.