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From energy law to cannabis law consulting, business is booming for Maine's largest law firms, as reflected in rankings just released by Mainebiz.
The 2021 list, published in the Nov. 15 print edition and in the database for subscribers, ranks the state's 10 largest firms by their numbers of Maine attorneys in October. The data is based on surveys conducted by Mainebiz researcher Timothy Doyle.
With 105 attorneys in Maine, Bernstein Shur remains the top dog, followed by Drummond Woodsum, which moved up from No. 5 last year to No. 2 in 2021 with a total of 84 attorneys in Maine.
Rounding out the top five are Pierce Atwood LLP in third place and Preti Flaherty in fourth, each of which slipped one place in this year's standings. Verrill, at No. 5, is down two spots from last year when it tied with Preti for No. 3. The reshuffling was limited to the top five, with the bottom half of the top 10 unchanged from 2020.
Scroll down to find the top 10 ranked by attorneys, and find the full list in the latest Mainebiz print edition, with a focus on law. Besides the number of Maine attorneys at each firm, the list includes each firm's total Maine employees and number of offices in the state.
Bernstein Shur CEO Joan Fortin, honored as a Mainebiz Woman to Watch in 2018 and interviewed earlier this year for the Mainebiz podcast "The Day That Changed Everything," remains the only woman to lead a top 10 law firm.
Bernstein Shur also remains the largest on the annual list, despite a decrease in Maine attorneys at the firm from 117 in 2020 to 105 on the 2021 list. However, the firm continues to hire.
"It's been a very busy year across the firm and we’ve hired 12 lawyers in the past several months. I’m also hiring for a director of attorney recruiting to help us staff up further," Fortin told Mainebiz. "Our energy and real estate practice groups are booming, and we expect that to continue to be the case as President [Joe] Biden signs the infrastructure bill into law today.”
She was referring to the $1 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which was hailed by U.S. Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, as "monumental legislation that will bring incredible benefits to Maine communities."
In terms of what that means for energy practices like the one at Bernstein Shur, attorney Joel Moser said, "This is a pivotal moment for the region's energy future. Utilities, renewable energy generators, municipalities, customers and policy makers are working together to strengthen and modernize our energy infrastructure, interconnect renewables like solar and wind into the electric grid and plan for the very real impact of climate change.
"We are excited for the opportunities this poses for our clients, and are privileged to help them find creative solutions.”
With 84 attorneys in Maine, Drummond Woodsum also reports being busy across several practice areas, according to the firm's managing director, attorney Benjamin Marcus.
"There are a number of practice areas that are very busy and expanding in terms of work and personnel," Marcus said. "It's not just one."
He mentioned the firm's practice areas in regulated substances, headed by Hannah King, who advises cannabis businesses across the region; government relations and campaigns, led by Toby McGrath and recent adviser to supporters of the "Yes on Question 1" campaign against the Central Maine Power transmission corridor; and the firm's nationally recognized tribal nations practice group, led by Michael-Corey Hinton.
Marcus also said that litigators from July's merger with Portland's Germani Hill & Hayes have been a great addition to Drummond Woodsum, and that the firm's general practice lawyers have had a lot of mergers and acquisitions work lately, adding, "We're very busy in that space."
Asked whether he expects the firm's growth to continue, Marcus said, "I think that it probably will."
On a more general note, Marcus said he believes that Portland law firms have an advantage over larger firms elsewhere, adding, "It's always been very competitive here, but the key is to have the skills that create unique practices ... and to give your clients good value. Good value in law is no different in law than any other service, but Maine is very competitive, and having practice areas where you're a leader is really important."
Pierce Atwood Managing Partner David Barry echoed those remarks, noting that the demand for legal services is robust across all of his firm's practice areas in Maine.
"The competition to attract talented lawyers is quite intense throughout the country, but we have been very fortunate to have been able add a number of terrific lawyers at the more senior level and at the more junior levels as well," he said. "I think our continued ability to attract strong legal talent to Portland is a function of the health and vibrancy of our firm, and also the wonderful opportunity to live and work in Maine.”