By Lyle Fitzsimmons, as published in the Spring 2015 issue of Trux
If it’s in Georgia and it moves, chances are pretty good that it knows HunterMaclean.
The firm — which operates from offices in the coastal cities of Savannah and Brunswick — celebrated 135 years in business in 2014, and has spent much of that time serving the legal needs of companies at every stop on the nation’s evolving transportation continuum.
“I find it very interesting that in 1903, the firm’s admiralty lawyers represented a London-based protection and indemnity club, and that we still represent that club today — as well as other P&l clubs from around the world,” said Brad Harmon, who joined HunterMaclean in 2006 and now oversees its transportation and logistics group. “Over its history, the firm has represented ocean carriers, railroads, motor carriers and aerospace manufacturers.
“Transportation is an important part of the firm’s identity and one of its strengths.”
Indeed, the importance of Savannah’s port played a significant role in the firm’s founding in 1879, and the city’s evolution across parts of three centuries has prompted HunterMaclean to work not only with transportation interests, but also in other disciplines that emerged as the area and its needs grew.
Its earliest clients, in fact, were shippers, carriers, warehouses, banks and railroads. The firm these days maintains practices in maritime, transportation and logistics, in addition to more than 30 other newer focuses — including employment, information technology, intellectual property, zoning and land use, environmental law and immigration.
Its business litigation practice also handles transportation matters. And while corporate attorneys manage complex business transactions, business sales, start-ups, mergers and acquisitions, and business successions, specialized tax attorneys are responsible for increasingly complex corporate taxation issues.
A roster of 46 attorneys, 12 paralegals and 48 support staff members work out of the Savannah and Brunswick offices, and the firm’s reach not only extends across Georgia and regionally throughout the Southeast, but also throughout the country and, in some specific practices, across borders to work with international clients.
The most typical client, according to Harmon, is a business owner and operator affiliated with either a regional or a national motor carrier.
Many of HunterMaclean’s clients work with or own privately held, Georgia-based businesses, he said, but the full scope of clients actually runs the gamut from individuals to Fortune 500 companies.
The firm is an affiliate member of GMTA, which Harmon said helps it to stay on top of prevalent issues that affect transportation clients and provides opportunities to engage with members at association events like the sporting clays shoot, set for April 11 at the Dorchester Shooting Preserve in Midway, and the annual convention, which will run from June 21-23 at the Ritz-Carlton in Amelia Island, Fla.
A significant separation from the firm’s competition, he said, comes both from size — it’s one of the largest legal entities in the state outside Atlanta — and from the wide range of practice disciplines that allow for a high level of service to both in-state and regional clients.
“One of the most important strengths of HunterMaclean is the comprehensive service that we provide our clients,” Harmon said. “Businesses need different kinds of legal work at different points in their business timeline. They may have an employment issue or an OSHA claim. They may need to defend a lawsuit or their intellectual property. They may want to sell their business or plan an exit strategy.
“HunterMaclean has attorneys who can address all of those matters and more.”
The firm responded to changing dynamics in the transportation space two years ago when it created a dedicated logistics practice whose mission is to assist clients by gathering the varied expertise needed by a typical transportation business under the auspices of a single practice.
Companies in the transportation and logistics industries are under perpetually increasing pressure to deliver goods faster and more cheaply, while simultaneously finding ways to keep themselves safe and profitable.
“We are partnering with our clients to assist them in meeting those goals,” Harmon said. “This can include workforce agreements, information technology, vendor agreements, contracts, business structure, tax structure and, importantly, working to prevent and defend litigation.”
And when it comes to selling expertise, few things help like track record and accomplishment.
“The firm’s 135-year history means that we can call on a great depth of institutional knowledge to benefit our clients in a wide variety of circumstances,” he said.
“We have a focused transportation/logistics practice to assist motor carriers in all aspects of their businesses. Our transportation attorneys are involved in the industry on many levels — as part of organizations such as GMTA, TLA (Transportation Lawyers of America) and CSCMP (Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals), on panels and at summits, tracking regulation and legislation and working with our clients to help them protect and grow their businesses.”