Attorneys

Experience

Drew Ernst, a partner in the Firm’s Savannah office, has practiced for over thirty years in the areas of environmental law, land use, commercial real estate development, and industrial development. He has extensive experience in representing clients on wetland issues and coastal development matters arising under various facets of Georgia’s Marshlands Protection Act and Shore Protection Act. He also represents clients before regulatory agencies in obtaining permits under the Clean Water Act. He has been listed in The Best Lawyers in America for environmental law since 1997 and in Chambers USA since 2004, and in 2009 he was elected into membership in the American College of Environmental Lawyers.

On behalf of an economic development authority, Drew was instrumental in the creation of a unique Section 404 Permit for a 1,800 acre industrial park. The pre-permitting of the entire development effectively reconciled environmental concerns and economic development before the final uses of the park were identified. Lt. General Henry Hatch, then Chief of Engineers and Commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, personally issued the permit in Washington, D.C. This permitting concept has become the basis for most large industrial parks developed since the early 1990s.

Drew has authored numerous articles on environmental and real estate issues, including “Responding to the Challenge of the 404 Permit,” published in the Economic Development Review. He also co-authored “Water Water Everywhere, Better Call the Corps: Section 404 Regulation of Wetlands,” which appeared in Mercer Law Review 41, no. 3. Drew has also been a frequent speaker on environmental and real estate topics at seminars sponsored by different organizations, including the Georgia Continuing Legal Education Institute, the American Economic Development Council, Executive Enterprises, the Seminar Group, and the Environment, Energy, and Resources Section of the American Bar Association. He has co-chaired the Southeast and Georgia Wetlands and Water Law program presented annually in Atlanta since 2001. Drew’s last presentation in February 2011 was entitled “In Search of Mitigation: Savannah Harbor Deepening Project.”

Drew developed Coastal Ecology Programs for the Leadership Savannah Youth Program, a leadership development program for outstanding public and private high school students sponsored by the Savannah Area Chamber of Commerce. For six years, Drew prepared and conducted hands-on learning programs on coastal ecology at the Skidaway Institute of Oceanography in Skidaway Island, Georgia. Approximately 240 students participated in these unique programs. Drew utilized role-playing, laboratory research on student collected marine organisms, and discussions of economic pressures on the environment to develop a greater understanding of coastal ecology by the participants.

Drew received his B.A., magna cum laude, from Armstrong State College in 1974 and his J.D. from the University of Georgia School of Law in 1977. At Armstrong, he received the Silver A Award for Academic and Civic Achievement. In law school, he served on the editorial board of the Georgia Journal of International and Comparative Law.

Representative Engagements

  • Represented a major paper manufacturer in land acquisition, environmental due diligence, and permitting of a $750 million recycled tissue mill located in Effingham County, Georgia, on the Savannah River.
  • Coordinated the Corps of Engineers permitting and title acquisition for a major textile chemical manufacturing plant to be located on the Savannah River.
  • Coordinated environmental due diligence and negotiated environmental provisions in an asset purchase transaction involving redevelopment of a major manufacturing facility of heavy equipment in the Midwest. The location was a brownfield site requiring extensive coordination with both the State of Indiana and EPA in the cleanup of various constituents including solvents, PCBs, and asbestos, among others.
  • Coordinated environmental due diligence and negotiated environmental provisions in deal documents as part of the overall representation in the purchase of an ocean port terminal and related chain of gas stations with approximately sixty locations in the southeastern United States.
  • Coordinated the planning and wetland permitting for a 1,800 acre mixed-use industrial park in Coastal Georgia, which was recognized by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as a first-of-its-kind permitted project.
  • Represented an economic development authority in the acquisition of a 6,000 acre tract of timberland to be developed into an industrial park. The representation included all facets of development such as: Section 404 permitting, securing the necessary permits to become a designated regional service provider (water and sewer), and resolution of various zoning issues.
  • Represented CSX Realty and the Westin Savannah Harbor Resort on Hutchinson Island, located across the Savannah River from historic downtown Savannah, Georgia, in real estate matters and environmental due diligence and permitting in the ever-expanding development of Hutchinson Island. Handled land acquisition, title, zoning and land use issues, governmental relations with the city and county regarding water, sewer, and future marina to be located on the site, resulting in a public-private partnership for funding of infrastructure for the island and an investment to date exceeding $450 million.
  • Represented for over twenty years the largest manufacturer of tractor-trailers in the United States on environmental permitting and compliance issues associated with its five major manufacturing plants and numerous repair facilities located throughout the country.
  • Represented numerous “PRPs” in dealing with various “SuperFund” sites located throughout the United States.
  • Represented various businesses and timber companies in Clean Water Act disputes associated with “agricultural activities” under 33 U.S.C. ş 1344 (f).
  • Coordinated the Corps of Engineers and State of Georgia (Marshlands Protection Act) permitting for the construction and expansion of numerous marinas in Coastal Georgia, as well as assisted clients with acquisitions of numerous existing marinas such as Golden Isles Marina in the Frederica River on St. Simons Island, Georgia.

Recognition

Chambers USA, America’s Leading Lawyers for Business: Environmental Law

Chambers USA ranks the leading firms and lawyers in an extensive range of practice areas throughout America. Click here for more information.

Best Lawyers in America: Environmental Law, Economic Development Law

Best Lawyers is the oldest and most highly-respected peer review guide to the legal profession worldwide. A listing in Best Lawyers is widely regarded by both clients and legal professionals as a significant honor, conferred on a lawyer by his or her peers.

Outstanding Community Supporter: 2015

The Phi Alpha Delta law fraternity honored HunterMaclean with an “Outstanding Community Supporter” award in recognition of the Firm’s support of the 2014 Armstrong State University Moot Court Team. The Recognition Dinner took place on April 16, 2015, at Armstrong State University.

Armstrong State University: Distinguished Alumni Award, 2014

HunterMaclean attorney Drew Ernst received the Distinguished Alumni Award at Armstrong State University’s first-ever Alumni Awards Gala on October 10, 2014, during Celebrate Armstrong Weekend. The award recognizes excellence in professional, community, or public service.

Community STAR: 2014

The Savannah Technical College Foundation Community Council presents Community STARS awards once a year to individuals who have demonstrated service and dedication in the community or at work.

Georgia Trend Magazine Legal Elite: 2012

Georgia Trend Magazine’s annual listing of Georgia’s top attorneys, selected by their peers. The list includes eight practice areas: business law; personal injury litigation; criminal law; labor and employment; taxes, estates and trusts; bankruptcy and creditors’ rights; family law; and general practice/trial law.

American College of Environmental Lawyers

Drew Ernst is a fellow of the American College of Environmental Lawyers (ACOEL), a professional association of distinguished lawyers who practice in the field of environmental law.  Membership is by invitation and members are recognized by their peers as preeminent in their field.  Fewer than 150 lawyers in the U.S. have achieved this distinction.

Georgia Super Lawyers: 2004-2008

Super Lawyers is a rating service of outstanding lawyers from more than 70 practice areas who have attained a high-degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. The selection process is multi-phased and includes independent research, peer nominations and peer evaluations.

Martindale-Hubbell: AV Rated

The Martindale-Hubbell® PEER REVIEW RATINGS™ are an objective indicator of a lawyer’s high ethical standards and professional ability, generated from evaluations of lawyers by other members of the bar and the judiciary in the United States and Canada.


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Publications & Presentations

Publications

Proposed Clean Water Act Expansion Could Affect Construction in Chatham County

A new rule proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) would expand their jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act and, if implemented, could add additional time and cost to new construction projects in Chatham County.

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The Savannah Harbor Deepening Process Continues

By Andrew H. Ernst, published on September 21, 2011, in Business in Savannah.

The deepening of the Savannah Harbor, now estimated to cost $588 million, was conditionally approved in part when Congress passed the Water Resources Development Act of 1999 (WRDA99). Those conditions included finalizing an environmental impact statement for the project as well as other supporting studies and completion of the permitting process.

The act also required the selected plan for this project, which is known as the Savannah Harbor Expansion project, or SHEP, to be jointly approved by the Secretary of Interior, the Secretary of Commerce, the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Secretary of the Army.

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Don't Let the Mud Hit the Fan - Wetlands Legislation is Often Overlooked by Business Owners.

By Andrew H. Ernst, published on September 10, 2000, in Savannah Morning News.

We are all aware of the environmental problems associated with the purchase of property that may be contaminated with hazardous substances. However, Savannah business owners often overlook another important environmental issue: wetlands legislation.

Overlooking the Clean Water Act, which regulates the filling of wetlands, among other things, can be a costly mistake. You may acquire property only to discover your plans thwarted or complicated by the Army Corps of Engineers or the Environmental Protection Agency which have recently stepped up enforcement actions with respect to wetlands development.

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The 404 Permit That Couldn't, But Did - The Story of Crossroads Business Center

By Andrew H. Ernst, published on April 2, 1992, in The Journal of Environmental Permitting 1, no. 2 (Spring 1992).

Coauthored with Richard D. Knowlton, president and chief executive officer of the Savannah Economic Development Authority (SEDA).
Originally printed in The Journal of Environmental Permitting, Vol. 1, No. 2, Spring 1992.

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The Savannah Economic Development Authority(SEDA) recently received a “first of a kind” 404 permit from the U.S. Corps of Engineers for a 1,784-acre business park based on environmental factors that affect property rather than on typical land use patterns. SEDA formed a team consisting of an engineering firm, an environmental lawyer, an environmental engineer, conservation groups, including the Georgia Conservancy, and local citizens to develop the plan and consulted with the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers prior to submission of the permit to the Corps.

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Water, Water Everywhere, Better Call the Corps: Section 404 Regulation of Wetlands

By Andrew H. Ernst and Wade W. Herring, II, published on April 4, 1990, in Mercer Law Review 41, no. 34, Rev. 843.

I. WHY CONSIDER WHETHER AN AREA IS A WETLAND?

A real estate developer may acquire property for commercial, residential, agricultural, or industrial use only to discover that the United States Army Corps of Engineers (the “Corps”) or the Environmental Protection Agency (the “EPA”) can thwart the development plans if they discover “jurisdictional wetlands” on the property. (see end note 1) Section 404 (see end note 2) of the Clean Water Act (see end note 3) (the “CWA”), also known as the Federal Water Pollution Prevention Control Act of 1972, regulates the filling of various wetlands and has become increasingly important and controversial over the last few years as the Corps and EPA have stepped up enforcement actions against unsuspecting developers. Should a developer inadvertently begin work in a wetland without benefit of a permit, or should it intentionally attempt to circumvent the Act, the Corps and EPA have available both administrative and judicial remedies to stop the developer’s work on its project. (see end note 4)

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Presentations

Harbor Expansion in Georgia's Port City

Presented by Andrew H. Ernst at the 23rd Annual Red Clay Conference at the Dean Rusk International Law Center on the University of Georgia Campus in Athens, Georgia, on March 4, 2011.

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Wetlands Permitting and Mitigation for Large Projects

Presented at 10th Annual Wetlands and Water Law in the SE: Looking Forward, a seminar sponsored by The Seminar Group, in Atlanta, Georgia, on February 18, 2011, by Andrew H. Ernst.

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In Search of Mitigation: Savannah Harbor Expansion Project Part II

Presented at 10th Annual Wetlands and Water Law in the SE: Looking Forward, a seminar sponsored by The Seminar Group, in Atlanta, Georgia, on February 18, 2011, by Andrew H. Ernst.

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In Search of Mitigation: Savannah Harbor Deepening Project

Presented at Wetlands and Water Law in the SE: Looking Forward, a seminar sponsored by The Seminar Group, in Atlanta, Georgia, on February 18-19, 2010, by Andrew H. Ernst.

Click here for PDF

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Coastal Permitting

Presented at Georgia Wetlands, a seminar sponsored by The Seminar Group, in Atlanta, Georgia, on February 16, 2007, by Andrew H. Ernst.

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Wetland and Water Issues in the Southeast

Presented at Southeast Wetlands & Water Law, a seminar sponsored by The Seminar Group, in Atlanta, Georgia, on February 28, 2002. Andrew H. Ernst served as co-moderator.

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A Case Study - Port Wentworth, Community and Wetland Master Planning

Presented at Southeast Wetlands & Water Law, a seminar sponsored by The Seminar Group, in Atlanta, Georgia, on February 28, 2002, by Andrew H. Ernst.

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The Development of Hutchinson Island, Savannah-Chatham County's Public-Private Partnership

Presented at the Real Property Law Institute, Real Property Law Section, State Bar of Georgia in Amelia Island, Florida, on April 25, 2001, by Andrew H. Ernst in conjunction with John H. McCleskey, Project Director and Developer, Savannah Harbor Resort.

Hutchinson Island is approximately 2000 acres in size. It lies in the middle of the Savannah River 800 feet north of the Savannah National Landmark Historic District. Until recently, most of the island was vacant land. It is now being developed into a major mixed-use development which contains the Westin Savannah Harbor Resort, the Savannah International Maritime Trade and Convention Center, and a significant number of retail and residential properties.

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News

23 HunterMaclean Attorneys Listed in The Best Lawyers in America© 2018

HunterMaclean is pleased to announce that 23 attorneys from the firm were recently selected for inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America© 2018. Best Lawyers recognizes attorneys for significant achievements in their area of practice.

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HunterMaclean Listed in Prestigious Chambers USA 2017 Guide

HunterMaclean was recognized again this year in the exclusive Chambers USA 2017. Chambers guides are the result of thousands of in-depth interviews by the largest research team of its kind. HunterMaclean is the only Savannah law firm to be ranked by Chambers USA.

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21 HunterMaclean Attorneys Listed in The Best Lawyers in America© 2017

HunterMaclean is pleased to announce that 21 attorneys were recently selected for inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America© 2017. Best Lawyers, which is published annually in almost 70 countries, recognizes attorneys for outstanding achievements in their area of practice.

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HunterMaclean Listed in Prestigious Chambers USA Guide 2016

Three practice areas and four attorneys were recently ranked in the exclusive Chambers USA 2016. HunterMaclean is the only law firm in Savannah to be ranked by Chambers USA.

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HunterMaclean Recognized by Southern Business & Development as one of Georgia’s Best Economic Development Law Firms

HunterMaclean was recently named one of  Georgia’s Best Economic Development Law Firms in Southern Business & Development’s first annual “Best of Economic Development in Georgia.”

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20 HunterMaclean Attorneys Listed in The Best Lawyers in America© 2016

HunterMaclean, a leading business law firm with offices in Savannah and Brunswick, is pleased to announce that 20 attorneys from the firm were selected for inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America© 2016.

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HunterMaclean Law Firm Ranked in Prestigious Chambers USA Guide 2015

HunterMaclean has been ranked in the Chambers USA Guide 2015, an exclusive annual listing of top law firms and lawyers in the United States. Chambers & Partners is widely considered the authority on rankings in the legal profession across the world.

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Armstrong State University: HunterMaclean Nominee Receives Liberty Bell Award at Savannah Bar Association

HunterMaclean partner Drew Ernst nominated Armstrong State University Associate Professor Dr. Becky K. da Cruz for the Savannah Bar Association’s Liberty Bell Award for her work as a mentor and coach to Armstrong’s award-winning moot court team.

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Armstrong Magazine: Amazing Alumni Drew Ernst

As an environmental law attorney with HunterMaclean in Savannah for the past 37 years, Drew Ernst has brokered land use agreements that protect our local creeks and wildlife, while accommodating a fast-growing industrial and commercial sector. He was featured as an “Amazing Alumni” in the most recent issue of Armstrong State University’s magazine.

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HunterMaclean Attorney Drew Ernst Honored by Armstrong State University With Distinguished Alumni Award

HunterMaclean partner Andrew H. Ernst, an environmental law attorney, was recently recognized by Armstrong State University with its Distinguished Alumni Award for excellence in professional, community or public service.

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HunterMaclean Attorneys Selected For The Best Lawyers in America® 2015

HunterMaclean is pleased to announce that 22 lawyers from the firm were recently selected by their peers for inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America® 2015.

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HunterMaclean Law Firm Ranked in Chambers USA Guide 2014

HunterMaclean is pleased to announce that it has been ranked in the Chambers USA Guide 2014, an exclusive annual listing of top law firms and lawyers in the U.S. Chambers and Partners is widely considered the authority on lawyer and firm rankings in the legal profession across the world.

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SMN: Drew Ernst Honored As One of Savannah Tech 2014 Community STARs

The Savannah Technical College Foundation Community Council recognized HunterMaclean partner Drew Ernst as one of twenty Community STARs for 2014. The annual award honors individuals for their service and dedication at work or in the community.

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25 HunterMaclean Attorneys Selected for The Best Lawyers in America® 2014

HunterMaclean is pleased to announce that 25 lawyers from the firm were recently selected by their peers for inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America® 2014.

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HunterMaclean Law Firm Ranked by Chambers USA Guide 2013

Four HunterMaclean attorneys and three practice areas earned rankings by Chambers USA, an elite peer-review process, for 2013.

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Record Number of HunterMaclean Attorneys Selected for Georgia Trend’s 2012 “Legal Elite” Issue

Georgia Trend honored 14 HunterMaclean attorneys in the magazine’s annual “Legal Elite” issue, which recognizes the top attorneys in the state of Georgia.

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28 HunterMaclean Attorneys Among 'Best'

HunterMaclean, a business law firm with offices in Savannah and Brunswick, has announced that 28 lawyers from the firm were selected for inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America 2013.

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Mr. Hutchinson Island

On Wednesday July 18, Savannah celebrated the accomplishments of John McCleskey, developer of Hutchinson Island. On hand were HunterMaclean attorneys Brooks Stillwell and Drew Ernst, who were key partners in bringing the Hutchinson Island project to fruition.

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HunterMaclean Ranked by Chambers USA Guide 2012

HunterMaclean attorneys and practice areas have been listed by Chambers and Partners, an exclusive annual ranking of leading law firms and lawyers worldwide. The rigorous peer-review process followed by Chambers results in one of the most prestigious rankings in the legal profession.

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HunterMaclean Helps Support College of Coastal Georgia Scholarship Fund

HunterMaclean has pledged $12,500 to help fund an innovative new scholarship for undergraduate students at the College of Coastal Georgia in Brunswick. The Leadership Through Service Scholarship will provide support for service-learning participants enrolled in a bachelor’s degree program in Business or Psychology.

 

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Record Number of HunterMaclean Attorneys Selected for The Best Lawyers in America for 2012

HunterMaclean, a leading business law firm with offices in Savannah and Brunswick, is pleased to announce that Best Lawyers in America, the oldest and most respected peer-review publication in the legal profession, recently honored a record 23 HunterMaclean attorneys by including them on this prestigious list of leading lawyers.

“We are delighted to have a record number of attorneys from our firm featured on this year’s Best Lawyers in America list,” said Frank S. Macgill, HunterMaclean’s managing partner. “This honor reflects hard work on the part of the firm’s partners and associates.”

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Record Number of HunterMaclean Attorneys Selected for The Best Lawyers in America for 2011

The Best Lawyers in America® for 2011, a confidential peer-review survey, recently honored a record 28 HunterMaclean attorneys by including them on this prestigious list of leading lawyers. Last year, 20 attorneys at HunterMaclean earned this top honor.

“We’re delighted to have a record number of attorneys from our firm featured on this year’s Best Lawyers in America list,” said Frank S. Macgill, HunterMaclean’s managing partner. “Our attorneys work hard for our clients and it shows.”

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Record Number of HunterMaclean Attorneys Selected for The Best Lawyers in America for 2010

The Best Lawyers in America for 2010, a confidential peer-review survey, recently honored a record 20 HunterMaclean attorneys by including them on this prestigious list of leading lawyers. Last year, 18 attorneys at HunterMaclean earned this top honor.

“We are delighted to have a record number of attorneys from our firm featured on this year’s Best Lawyers in America list,” said John M. Tatum, HunterMaclean’s managing partner. “Our attorneys work hard for our clients and it shows.”

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Drew Ernst Joins Prestigious American College of Environmental Lawyers

HunterMaclean, a leading law firm headquartered in Savannah, is pleased to announce that longtime partner Drew Ernst has been invited to join the prestigious American College of Environmental Lawyers (ACOEL).

The American College of Environmental Lawyers is an elite professional association of distinguished lawyers who practice in the field of environmental law. Membership is by invitation only, with members recognized as preeminent in their field by their peers. ACOEL members are dedicated to upholding the ethical practice of environmental law, the administration of justice, and the development of environmental law at both the state and federal level.

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Eighteen HunterMaclean Attorneys Named 2009 Best Lawyers in America

Eighteen leading attorneys with HunterMaclean were recently named to The Best Lawyers in America listing for 2009, a confidential peer-review survey, breaking the firm record set for 2008, when 16 attorneys earned this top honor.

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Record Number of HunterMaclean Attorneys Selected for The Best Lawyers in America for 2008

Sixteen top attorneys with HunterMaclean were recently named to The Best Lawyers in America listing for 2008, a confidential peer-review survey.

“We are delighted to have a record number of attorneys from our firm featured on this year’s Best Lawyers in America list,” said John M. Tatum, HunterMaclean’s managing partner. “Our attorneys work hard for our clients and it shows.”

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HunterMaclean Honored by Southern Business and Development Magazine as One of "Top 10 Law Firms That Understand Economic Development"

Southern Business and Development Magazine recently selected Savannah-based HunterMaclean as one of the “Top 10 Law Firms That Understand Economic Development.”

A feature-length article in the Winter 2008 issue of the magazine calls HunterMaclean “the leading business law firm in Georgia outside of Atlanta for over 100 years,” adding that “the firm has been the leading legal voice for businesses locating or expanding into the coastal Georgia area.”

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Congratulations to HunterMaclean's 2008 Super Lawyers

Atlanta Magazine recently named 11 HunterMaclean attorneys as Georgia Super Lawyers in its March 2008 issue. The prestigious Georgia Super Lawyers honor is given annually to the top five percent of attorneys in the state, as chosen by their peers and through independent research by Law & Politics, a magazine which published the first list of Super Lawyers 17 years ago

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Atlanta Magazine Names 11 HunterMaclean Attorneys to Prestigious Georgia Super Lawyers List

Atlanta Magazine recently named 11 HunterMaclean attorneys as Georgia Super Lawyers in its March 2007 issue. The Georgia Super Lawyers honor is given annually to the top five percent of attorneys in the state, as chosen by their peers and through independent research by Law & Politics, a magazine which published the first list of Super Lawyers 16 years ago.

HunterMaclean’s attorneys were selected after ballots were sent to Georgia lawyers who have been licensed in the state for five years or more. Listed in the Georgia Super Lawyers 2007 publication as well as in a special edition of Atlanta Magazine, the attorneys are organized by their primary areas of practice.

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Atlanta Magazine Names Nine HunterMaclean Attorneys to Prestigious Georgia Super Lawyers List

Atlanta Magazine has named nine HunterMaclean attorneys as Georgia Super Lawyers in its March 2006 issue. The Georgia Super Lawyershonor is given annually to the top five percent of attorneys in the state, as chosen by their peers and through independent research by Law & Politics, a magazine which published the first list of Super Lawyers 15 years ago.

HunterMaclean’s attorneys were selected after ballots were sent to Georgia lawyers who have been licensed in the state for five years or more. Listed in the Georgia Super Lawyers 2006 publication as well as in a special edition of Atlanta Magazine, the attorneys are organized by their primary areas of practice.

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Spotlight

Holding Court: Firm Supports Award-Winning Moot Court Team

HunterMaclean proudly sponsors Armstrong Atlantic State University’s Moot Court Team, making it possible for Savannah-area undergraduates to compete and win at regional and national tournaments.

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Big Plans: Firm Clears the Way for Westin Resort’s Development

The Westin Savannah Harbor Golf Resort & Spa is well-known as one of the most popular and most successful hotels in Savannah, but the hotel, which is located on Hutchinson Island just across the river from Savannah’s National Landmark Historic District, had several major legal hurdles to overcome when it was first conceived in the 1980′s.

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