published Wednesday, June 13th, 2012

Chattanooga’s third-largest law firm marks 130 years

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Chattanooga's third-largest law firm celebrated a major milestone Tuesday as the 27 local defense litigators of Leitner, Williams, Dooley & Napolitan cap 130 years in business.

The firm is known for representing employers in both federal and state suits, as well as the U.S. Supreme Court.

Founded in 1882 by brothers W.G.M. Thomas and L.M. Thomas, the firm survived by expanding faster than competitors and by winning cases, officials say.

The firm has also gained a reputation for taking care of its lawyers, said senior partner Paul Leitner.

Comparing the firm's philosophy to Southwest Airlines, he called employees the company's "greatest asset and reason for success."

"That is exacly what my former partners told me as a young lawyer, as I grew to know them and their philosophies," Leitner said. "It is my fervent hope that the firm will continue the tradition."

From its humble beginnings of two employees, the firm has expanded to more than 100 attorneys at offices in Chattanooga, Nashville, Knoxville, Memphis, Atlanta and Oxford, Miss., said managing partner Thomas Williams.

"Some years have been better than others," admitted Williams, who got his start working the Hoffa case. "If we had not expanded when we did, like a lot of the smaller firms we would have went by the wayside. Sometimes you've got to expand to survive."

Moving forwrard, Williams said the firm's goal is to hire the best people.

"As long as you hire lawyers who have done well in their studies you can assume they'll do well on this," he said.

about Ellis Smith...

Ellis Smith joined the Chattanooga Times Free Press in January 2010 as a business reporter. His beat includes the flooring industry, Chattem, Unum, Krystal, the automobile market, real estate and technology. Ellis is from Marietta, Ga., and has a bachelor’s degree in mass communication at the University of West Georgia. He previously worked at UTV-13 News, Carrollton, Ga., as a producer; at the The West Georgian, Carrollton, Ga., as editor; and at the Times-Georgian, Carrollton, ...

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