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Tech-heavy law firm closes down shop

  Law Firm News  -   POSTED: 2007/07/13 16:03

Boutique technology law firm Daniels Daniels & Verdonik, whose members were major players during the go-go, dot-com years, is closing shop and will be absorbed into the Raleigh outpost of New Bern-based Ward and Smith.

Founded in 1982, DD&V was well known among the local entrepreneurial intelligentsia, with clients including Etrials Worldwide Inc., EMC Corp. and StrikeIron Inc. The shop's offerings included corporate and tax law, structuring venture financing deals and patent and copyright work.

DD&V always has been a small firm, with its attorney roster maxing out at eight a few years ago. But after losing a couple of attorneys to Hutchison Law Group in the spring, DD&V's roster dwindled to just four lawyers, including name partners Walter Daniels, Linda Markus Daniels and Jim Verdonik.

"Daniels Daniels & Verdonik is a specialized firm with exceptionally knowledgeable attorneys who will strengthen our firm's full service capabilities," says Ward and Smith co-managing director Kenneth R. Wooten.

Partners at DD&V believe size will benefit the lawyers as well as the clients.

"We chose to combine with Ward and Smith to utilize their talented group of attorneys to provide additional resources to our clients," says Verdonik. "We are excited about this combination, and we look forward to continuing to serve the technology community with a wider range of services and a much deeper team."

Keith Kapp, who leads Williams Mullen Maupin Taylor's Raleigh office, sees benefits of the merger for DD&V.

"It would make good business sense and would better serve clients to be able to offer multiple specialties," says Kapp, who helped shepherd Raleigh-based Maupin Taylor through its recent merger with Virginia firmWilliams Mullen earlier this year.

Walter Daniels, a Morehead Scholar at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and wife Linda operated the firm as Daniels & Daniels for years. That changed in 2003, when tech and securities maven Verdonik jumped ship from Kilpatrick Stockton to join them.

In addition to the Danielses and Verdonik, intellectual property lawyer Jose Cortina works at DD&V.

The four lawyers are in the process of moving to Ward and Smith, which opened a Raleigh office in 1990. Excluding the DD&V crew, Ward and Smith's downtown Raleigh office has about 20 employees, including attorneys and support staff.

While specialization can have its advantages, DD&V was hamstrung by its size and practice limitations - especially after Caroline Horton Rockafellow and Amalie Tuffin departed the firm in March to join competitor Hutchison Law Group. A major chunk of DD&V's clientele is aspiring technology companies. They have the potential to soar to the moon, but many flame out on the launch pad.

Law firms can get burned along the way, notching plenty of billable hours working for a client that ends up not being able to pay because it encounters financial difficulty. Having to kiss a lot of frogs in order to find a prince is a better proposition at a bigger firm, which can weather tough times because it has other revenue-generating practice areas to fall back on.

A small firm such as DD&V also can be at a disadvantage because larger competitors can offer clients a wider diversity of services. For instance, DD&V competitors such as Smith Anderson and Wyrick Robbins Yates and Ponton both have dozens of lawyers and more practice areas, allowing clients to have much of their legal work taken care of under one roof. Hutchison Law Group has a niche similar to DD&V but is much bigger, having grown to 24 attorneys since its founding in 1996.

After the DD&V lawyers move over, Ward and Smith will have more than 70 attorneys and north of 200 support staff combined in Greenville, New Bern, Wilmington and Raleigh.

"With established offices in Wilmington and Greenville, two growing technology centers in eastern North Carolina, Ward and Smith will also expand the geographic reach of our technology practice," says Verdonik.

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