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The following was originally published by Law360 on June 15, 2022 in the article, “Gawthrop Greenwood Partner On Merger With Estate Boutique” by Pennsylvania Pulse reporter James Boyle.
The decision to merge practices with veteran estate attorneys Hudson L. Voltz and Janet J. Satterthwaite was an easy one for Patrick McKenna and the other partners at Gawthrop Greenwood PC in West Chester, Pennsylvania.
Hudson L. Voltz PC and Gawthrop Greenwood have a strong, collegial relationship, McKenna told Law360 Pulse on Wednesday, with attorneys from each firm referring clients to the other when appropriate. McKenna, who also serves as chair of Gawthrop Greenwood’s management committee, said Voltz, nicknamed “Hud,” has been friendly with the firm since he opened his practice in 1992.
The merger process started about seven months ago, McKenna said, and was finalized June 1. Voltz and Satterthwaite are practicing out of Gawthrop Greenwood’s office in West Chester, and Voltz will maintain the lease on his former office in Downingtown, Pennsylvania, through the end of the year.
McKenna spoke to Law360 Pulse on Wednesday about the reasons why the firms merged and the advantages of adding Voltz and Satterthwaite to the roster. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
GAWTHROP GREENWOOD’S PATRICK MCKENNA: This was a mutual pursuit, that’s the best way to look at it. We’ve known Hud for a long time and have been friends with him and Janet for decades. Hud had a great working relationship with our attorneys both in the past and the present, from a collaborative standpoint.
This was a natural fit for us. The timing was right especially for Hud and Janet, for where they were. For us, we like smart growth, and this was too good of an opportunity to pass up.
BOYLE: What was the relationship like between the firms leading up to the merger?
MCKENNA: We both shared referrals and collaborated numerous times over the years. Hud and some of our attorneys joined the Chester County bar several decades ago, and it was not the size it is now. Everybody knew each other fairly well.
There is a lot of collegiality within the Chester County bar, whether firms were working together or on opposite sides. Both Hud and our attorneys would look to each other for insight into matters they hadn’t dealt with.
Hud was also on the board of supervisors of East Brandywine Township, which we represented for decades. We have really known him for a long time. We began to have thoughts about merging, then Hud reached out with the same idea, and, again, it seemed like a natural fit.
BOYLE: What can Voltz and Satterthwaite add to Gawthrop Greenwood’s services?
MCKENNA: I think what we see as the main benefit is over 50-plus years of combined experience from Hud and Janet. His trust and estate practice is a nice complement for our estate practice, which is one of the busiest sections of the firm.
They also have a strong family law and litigation practice, but it’s the estate practice in particular that will really help us. This is a really good combination with the attorneys we have, and we will continue to grow.
I think our last merger was probably 10 years ago, they are much less frequent than the typical hiring process. We are a bit more particular with the merger option, but we are open to it as part of our growth strategy overall. For us, the decision is about the practice area and what can be offered to us. Does it complement us? We also like to have some personal relationships and pick attorneys and practices that will mesh without personality problems. We have the luxury to be more selective about those decisions.
BOYLE: What is the market like for firms of your size? What kind of challenges are you experiencing?
MCKENNA: Obviously it has been stressful since 2020, as it has been for many businesses because of the unknown from the pandemic. We have been able to successfully navigate COVID-19, and actually our revenues have been up in 2021 and for the year-to-date in 2022. I am optimistic and pleased by the results. We are proud to say that during the pandemic we managed to not only maintain our firm and staffing levels but continued to grow.
Having a diversity of practice helps those efforts, so that when one area is down, others are up. We are well-balanced in that aspect. I also give credit to the partnership for putting us in a good, strong financial position in the last several years, in particular 2019. That helped weather the storm and maintain our services.
We had a hard year in 2020 and the first half of 2021, but we came out stronger for the rest of 2021 and into 2022. One thing that was somewhat fortuitous was coming to the end of our lease in 2019. We ended up reducing our space and making the office more efficient right before the pandemic, so we were ahead of the curve on that. The pandemic later taught us to be flexible with the work environment.