Majority-minority attorney group moves to Riley Safer – Law News

on Jul27

27 July 2017 | 10:30 am

The top lawyer in Chicago for a national firm has moved his team to Riley Safer Holmes Cancila, fleshing out the litigation boutique with a transactional practice and underscoring its commitment to racial diversity.

Joseph Q. McCoy, formerly the local managing partner for Bryan Cave, has joined Riley Safer along with partners Rodney Perry and Mariangela Seale, and six other attorneys. The St. Louis, Mo.-based firm reported $608 million in revenue in 2016. McCoy’s commercial lending and real estate practice, with a specialty in airport concessions, includes banks BMO Harris, Private, Fifth Third, as well as McDonald’s and Sears.

All but two of the lawyers in the group are African-American, a rarity in the world of elite law firms. As Riley Safer named partner Patricia Brown Holmes noted: “Typically, it’s the other way around.”

“If that doesn’t show people we’re serious about diversity, I don’t know what does,” she said. “It’s like, put your money where your mouth is. Hire people.”

McCoy’s arrival will add transactional capabilities to a firm built around litigation. Riley Safer was formed last year when 22 partners left Schiff Hardin to establish their own shop. Since then, the firm has grown to more than $35 million in revenue and top billing rates around $900. It will reach 66 attorneys in August, which includes partner Gregory Curtner and a junior lawyer from Schiff Hardin. Curtner has an antitrust practice and represents that National Collegiate Athletic Association. But the firm will soon lose Robert Rivkin, who will take over as Chicago’s deputy mayor.

Minorities make up 32 percent of Riley Safer’s partners. The national average is lower than 6 percent, according to the National Association for Law Placement in Washington, D.C.

Persuading McCoy to join the firm is “a huge win” for Riley Safer, said Tiffany Harper, co-founder of the Diverse Attorney Pipeline Program and associate counsel at Grant Thornton, one of McCoy’s real estate clients. With most black attorneys in Big Law working as litigators, McCoy’s transactional practice makes him “a unicorn.” He has both subject matter expertise and deep relationships with minority communities.

“If you put that all together, you’ve got somebody who’s going to pay dividends for so long,” she said. “It’s just a smart business move.”

It’s a move that took awhile to come together. Holmes, who also is the special prosecutor investigating police who responded to the shooting of teenager Laquan McDonald, knew McCoy through his mentor Demetrius Carney. She ran into McCoy the day the former Schiff partners opened the doors at Riley Safer. He should join, she said. He demurred, but she kept at it.

“I would always see him and say, ‘I’ve got that corner office over on the west side of the building,'” she said. “I finally got him one day when he was weak.”

McCoy said he hesitated at first to move his practice to a firm known in the market for litigation. Eventually he was enticed by the opportunity to build a practice from “a whiteboard,” and the promise that he would have the resources to do it. And while partner compensation at Bryan Cave averaged $635,000, he said Riley Safer was “very competitive.”

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