East Coast law firm opens West Coast officeBy: Denise M. Champagne September 4, 2014
The Albany-based law firm Tully Rinckey PLLC is heeding the call of its West Coast clients and opening an office in California.
Steven L. Herrick
The new office, which opened Tuesday in San Diego, will be run by partner Steven L. Herrick, a Long Island native with California connections.
The full-service, veteran-owned firm specializes in federal labor and employment law, military law and security clearance representation from its seven offices, including four in upstate New York and two in the Washington, D.C., area.
Founding partner Mathew B. Tully said plans for the California office have been in the works for about 18 months.
“We knew we needed a West Coast office,” he said. “A large number of our clients are based on the West Coast.”
Tully said there were also some time-zone difficulties with East Coast attorneys only available 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Eastern time.
Herrick, who successfully opened and grew the Washington, D.C., office, volunteered to go to California where his two adult children live. Plus, Herrick is a 1976 graduate of the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law.
Mathew B. Tully
Tully said the firm was considering locations in Seattle, Los Angeles and San Diego. Selection was narrowed down to the two California cities about a year ago when Herrick expressed an interest in San Diego, where his son, an Iraq veteran, is living.
Herrick, who spent his career of more than 30 years practicing in New York and the District of Columbia, had to take time out and study for the California bar exam in February.
“He was very stressed out until he found out he passed,” Tully said. “You definitely don’t want to be the senior partner and not pass the bar exam. The running joke was that’s the first bar he didn’t have a drink at in 30 years.”
Herrick handles business litigation for the firm, but the majority of his practice is devoted to federal and military employment rights and benefits.
Tully Rinckey’s federal sector law team is headed by several former government attorneys with decades of experience in their respective areas of legal focus. The move to California provides not only coast-to-coast reach, but a physical presence in the state that leads the nation in housing federal employees and military personnel.
“Federal employees and service members across the country are hurting as the federal government struggles with ever-tightening budget constraints,” Herrick said. “Due to the high concentration of these individuals in California, the pain is especially acute in the state. Their rights are under attack and Tully Rinckey is stepping in to defend them.”
Tully said the goal is to add one or two attorneys to the San Diego office in the next six to nine months.
To help accommodate new business, the centralized support staff in Albany has been expanded and office hours increased: 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Tully said Herrick gave up his position as managing partner of the D.C. office in January to study and make the transition to California. Herrick was succeeded in Washington by Neil A.G. McPhie, partner and director of legal services, who had been appointed in 2003 by former President George W. Bush to chair the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board.
Other practice areas of the firm include family and matrimonial law, estate planning, employment law, real estate law, commercial litigation, bankruptcy, personal injury and criminal defense.
The Washington, D.C. office was opened in 2008, and later moved to a larger space, a block away from the White House. Since August 2012, the firm has opened four offices and relocated or expanded two.
“Rochester has definitely been one of the slower progressing locations,” Tully said. “We had hoped for much growth, but recruiting attorneys in Rochester has been a sore spot for us. It seems Rochester is a very old fashioned legal market.”
He attributes part of the problem to technology and the firm’s centralized support staff. Tully said a significant amount of the firm’s business is done electronically and he is amazed at the number of attorneys who do not communicate by email. Video conferencing is another staple.
“One of the fundamental principles we operate under is electronic communication is the preferred method,” Tully said. “We’re not your typical law firm. Many of our clients are serviced by our New York office. Nothing stops an employment attorney in Buffalo from handling a drug enforcement administration agent in Dubai. We welcome attorneys that are willing to take those types of challenges on.”
The Rochester office is run by partner Peter J. Pullano, a long-time local criminal defense lawyer.
“Attorney Pullano is very well-known in that area,” Tully said. “He’s handled some of the highest profile cases you’ve got out there.”
He said the firm has had greater expansion success in Buffalo, where it has already moved to a larger location one year after opening, and in Syracuse. In Buffalo, the firm has four attorneys, but space for up to 15 which it hopes to have mostly filled in about 18 months. Tully said the Syracuse office is at capacity with seven attorneys, up from one 18 months ago.
Tully, a retired lieutenant colonel in the New York National Guard and Purple Heart recipient who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, founded the firm in his home shortly after escaping the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York City and moving upstate. He had been employed in the legal department of Morgan Stanley at the World Trade Center.
Tully, who later opened an office in Albany, was joined in spring 2004 by Greg T. Rinckey, who is now managing partner of the firm (www.tullylegal.com) which has grown to 124 employees, including about 60 attorneys, most based in New York. Rinckey is a former active duty Army officer who has served with the U.S. Judge Advocate General’s Corps. and as an assistant U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia.