Woods Rogers and Vandeventer Black law firms to merge on July 1


The combined company will be the fifth largest in the state


April 20, 2022


kate andrews

Left to right: Woods Rogers and black Vandeventer executives Paul Julius, Daniel Summerlin, Victor Cardwell, Deborah Casey and Michael Sterling discuss the impending corporate merger. Photo by Will Hawkins

Woods Rogers PLC and Vandeventer Black LLP announced Wednesday that the two law firms have agreed to merge as Woods Rogers Vandeventer Black, creating the state’s fifth-largest law firm, with more than 130 lawyers and a total staff of 250 people. The merger will take effect on July 1.

Daniel Summerlin, president of Roanoke-based Woods Rogers, will remain president of the combined company, which will continue to be headquartered in Roanoke. Woods Rogers president Victor Cardwell, who is also president of the Virginia Bar Association, will chair the new firm’s board of directors. Vandeventer Black’s managing partner, Michael L. Sterling, plans to step down from his management role at the time of the merger.

“It’s something we’re excited about,” Summerlin said Wednesday afternoon. “We believe this is a historic merger that will create a powerful law firm in Virginia. Woods Rogers and Vandeventer Black…have been around for about 120 years. When we got together and started talking to each other, we found that we shared a lot in common in terms of practicing law, client services [and] commitment to the bar, as well as a commitment to our communities in which we have been for so long.

Woods Rogers Vandeventer Black will have offices in Roanoke, Norfolk, Richmond, Lynchburg and Charlottesville, as well as locations in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, and Hamburg, Germany. Attorneys are admitted to practice in 20 state and federal courts, and the new firm will serve local, national and international clients.

“It’s not an online meeting,” Cardwell said, referring to how well lawyers and executives from the two firms know each other.

Deborah Casey, board member of Norfolk-based Vandeventer Black, will serve as vice-chair of the new board. Autumn Visser, chief financial officer of Woods Rogers, and Paul Julius, executive director of Vandeventer Black, will retain their roles with the combined company.

The remainder of the combined company’s board will soon be elected and will include a member of management from Vandeventer Black’s Norfolk office.

Merger talks began more than two years ago, just before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Sterling said, although he noted that Vandeventer Black was considering expanding its presence in the western part of the country. state, where the Norfolk company has had customers for some time. . “I called Dan – and that was a few years ago – and I said, ‘We need to start talking to each other and see if there’s a potential opportunity for us to get together,'” Sterling recalled. Gradually, the discussion became more formal and included boards of directors, practice leaders and attorneys from both firms.

“I think we both have a common philosophy, which was ‘people first’, then…customers and then…finances,” Sterling said. “Because we knew if people couldn’t fit together… [then] it doesn’t matter if the finances are good or not.

By combining its strengths, the firm will be able to strengthen practice areas such as cybersecurity, providing a deeper bench of expert lawyers, Summerlin said. He noted that Vandeventer Black’s government contracts practice is stronger than that of Woods Rogers, while Roanoke’s firm has more strength in labor law, which is particularly relevant as more companies see their employees travel to organize themselves.

By having offices in several areas of Virginia, ranging from the Blue Ridge Mountains to the Port of Norfolk, the new company also hopes to offer a range of lifestyle options to attract young new lawyers, who are in high demand in the labor market. tight recruitment today. “We are now the place people need to look – from Richmond to Charlottesville, from Lynchburg to Roanoke,” Cardwell said.

As of Jan. 1, Woods Rogers was the seventh-largest firm in the state, with 77 attorneys in Virginia, and Vandeventer Black tied for 12th, with 51 attorneys practicing in the state. The merger will place the new company in the upper echelons of the state, just below McGuireWoods, Hunton Andrews Kurth, Williams Mullen and Troutman Pepper Hamilton Sanders.

The two firms combined have had 10 lawyers serving as VBA chairman, including Cardwell, who took over earlier this year from Richard Ottinger of Vandeventer Black. Cardwell noted that the merger allowed the Virginia Bar Association to have two consecutive presidents from the same law firm for what may be the first time in its 134-year history.

Both companies are also among the oldest in the state: Vandeventer Black was founded in 1883 and Woods Rogers was established in 1893.


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