As one of the area’s biggest and oldest law firms, it’s important for Chattanooga’s Miller & Martin to adapt to the changing business landscape.
“Our firm is nimble and reacts quickly to the changing focus and needs of the communities we serve,” Matt Jannerbo, chair of Miller & Martin’s Corporate Department and its Emerging Business Group, said via email.
For example, when Chattanooga began attracting more tech-focused ventures, the firm got involved with The Company Lab—which supports entrepreneurs and technology—as well as the chamber and other in the industry, he said.
The firm, which now has four offices across the Southeast and about 120 attorneys, began in Athens, Tennessee in 1867 before moving to downtown Chattanooga in 1917, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reported.
The firm is growing organically in terms of the number and range of clients it serves nationally and internationally and in terms of the breadth of matters the attorneys handle, Jannerbo also said.
In 2017, the firm established a practice group focused on general counsel services to small and medium-sized businesses, Chairman of Miller & Martin Jim Haley said in a prepared statement.
Although the firm always offered those services, leaders wanted to enhance and formalize the offerings.
The company recently added a new attorney Jeff Cunningham who is joining as a member and bringing new depth to the business’ General Counsel Services and Emerging Business practice groups within its Corporate Department.
Cunningham has about 20 years of experience representing entrepreneurs and businesses of all sizes, and he will also serve as the vice chair of Miller & Martin’s Corporate Department.
His focus is on serving as outside corporate counsel for high-growth businesses that do not have a legal department, but he works with companies through all phases of the business life cycle.
“We are confident that our clients will benefit from the range of experience and the client base that Jeff brings to our firm,” Haley also said. “Jeff has a proven track record of delivering efficient and tailored services to emerging companies.”
Cunningham will also concentrate a portion of his practice in the firm’s significant practice areas of mergers and acquisitions, venture capital and corporate finance.
He has worked and will continue to work with business clients across a range of industries, such as manufacturing, distribution, business and professional services, staffing, residential and commercial construction, as well as a variety of technology businesses and Internet-of-Things ventures, according to a news release.
Before joining Miller & Martin, Cunningham was a partner with Seyfarth Shaw, where he worked with people he liked, trusted and respected, he said.
He said he was in good standing and serving in leadership positions, so to leave, the firm needed to be special. It has to offer “nice-to-have” job aspects, he said.
“The right firm for me needs to be able to provide deep experience across a spectrum of legal subject matters concerning their operating businesses,” he said via email. “My former firm could certainly do that, so the ability to provide insight about and address legal needs across that spectrum was really table-stakes. Miller & Martin has that capability and more.”
The other “need to have” items on the list were characteristics, such as collegiality and camaraderie, which he had at Seyfarth Shaw.
Miller & Martin has demonstrated that it shares all of those qualities, he also said.
The locally based firm also aligns well with the types of clients he likes—entrepreneurial, growth-phase business facing a high rate of change—and a culture of being a trusted adviser so that clients can devote time to their goals, he said.
“Some lawyers and law firms seem to be in the business of selling access to law, but Miller & Martin is in the business of affirmatively helping clients use and navigate the law to achieve business success,” he said.
Jannerbo also said that the firm’s approach to clients is part of what differentiates it from the competition.
“Our service approach gives clients the partner-level attention and trusted counsel they deserve without the worry of rates they might expect pay to get the expertise from big-city firms,” he said.
Updated at 1:04 p.m. March 24 to correct a hyperlink.