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Barnes & Thornburg lands high-profile Faegre Drinker team

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WILMINGTON – The national law firm Barnes & Thornburg staked its claim in Wilmington on Monday in announcing that it landed a high-profile team of seven Faegre Drinker attorneys, led by its new office partner in charge Thomas McGonigle.

Thomas McGonigle | PHOTO COURTESY OF BARNES & THORNBURG

Also switching firms are new Barnes & Thornburg partners Shawn Tucker, a well-known state real estate and land use attorney, and Michael Maimone, an experienced corporate transactions and litigation lawyer. Making the move along with the partner trio are leading Delaware government relations consultants, Mary Kate McLaughlin and Doug Gramiak, who will serve as co-directors of state government affairs; Michael DeNote as of counsel and and Sawyer Traver as an associate, who both bring real estate expertise; and Whitney Potts as a paralegal.

Barnes & Thornburg, the No. 78 AmLaw 100 firm, has had a small Delaware office in the Brandywine Building for several years but will nearly double its headcount in Wilmington with the acquisition. At 22 local staff members, Barnes & Thornburg would likely crack the Top 25 largest Delaware firms as well, according to Delaware Business Times records.

The unusually large defection comes as the two firms are at different points in their history. Barnes & Thornburg is still growing out its national presence after starting in Indianapolis nearly 40 years ago, while Faegre Drinker is coming off a merger of the Faegre Baker and Drinker Biddle firms from last year.

Barnes & Thornburg’s well-run financial operation and management, combined with its Delaware growth focus and a practice focus that matched his own passions convinced McGonigle to leave Faegre Drinker, he said.

“I have a lot of respect for the lawyers and Faegre and certainly wish the firm well, but ultimately, Barnes is just a better fit for me and my practice,” McGonigle said.

Robert “Bob” Grand, managing partner at Barnes & Thornburg, said that the firm had been looking to bolster its ranks in Delaware for several years, but the tight-knit legal community made such growth difficult. He met McGonigle through an associate who knew him and they had discussed opportunities over the years.

“We believe Delaware is a great place to be. We’ve been there for a long time so any opportunity to expand our practice we’re going to look at carefully,” Grand said. “Obviously, these three partners are well- known, so I think that people that know them will probably have to question what attracted them to Barnes & Thornburg, potentially giving us some additional interest too.”

Grand said that Barnes & Thornburg wanted to build its Wilmington office as a full-service practice focusing on Delaware’s “three-legged stool” of corporate litigation, bankruptcy and intellectual property (IP).

“I think you have to have all three to be really a credible presence in Delaware,” he said.

The addition of McGonigle, McLaughlin and Gramiak will also immediately make Barnes & Thornburg one of the strongest state lobbying law firms. Grand said that the firm already has a strong book of that work, particularly in Georgia, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio.

McGonigle served as former Gov. Jack Markell’s chief of staff from 2009 to 2012 while Gramiak served as Gov. John Carney’s chief of staff from 2017 to 2019. McLaughlin served in various leadership positions in the Minner and Markell administrations, including as chief of staff to the state education secretary.

With a strong presence in the Midwest and growing presences in the South and on the West Coast, Grand said that the Northeast was a market that had great potential growth for Barnes & Thornburg. The firm opened a New York City office during the pandemic and has quickly grown its ranks.

“There’s a real strong nexus between the New York office that recently opened, Mike (Maimone’s) practice and the practice here in Delaware,” McGonigle said.

When asked about their future plans, both Grand and McGonigle want to grow the headcount in the office but don’t have a target number of attorneys to reach. McGonigle said that he has some lawyers in mind that he would approach, but that the firm was more worried about finding the right attorneys who fit the culture rather than growing simply in size.

(Clockwise from top left) Shawn Tucker, Michael Maimone, Thomas McGonigle, Whitney Potts, Sawyer Traver and Michael DeNote have joined Barnes & Thornburg’s Wilmington office. | PHOTOS COURTESY OF BARNES & THORNBURG

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