Chattanooga's biggest law firm is losing much, if not most, of its Nashville staff over a dispute among its attorneys over the leadership and direction of the firm.
A number of the partners and associates in the Nashville office of Miller & Martin are leaving the legal practice to join another law firm, attorneys for Miller & Martin confirmed Friday.
"There may be various reasons for this decision, but the overriding reason has to do with different philosophies about how to build and expand our practice," said James Haley, who was elected Miller & Martin's managing partner last October to succeed former managing partner Melvin Malone.
Malone, a former Tennessee Public Service Commissioner, worked out of Miller & Martin's Nashville office, which grew to a peak of nearly 60 attorneys.
Malone was the first managing partner for Miller & Martin not based in Chattanooga and the first African-American attorney to head the 145-year-old law firm.
Malone was unavailable Friday.
In a prepared statement, Haley said Miller & Martin "remains committed to having a presence in the Nashville market," although the firm is likely to have far fewer than the 48 attorneys who practiced in that office prior to the recent split in the firm.
"While we worked hard to reach consensus on a common direction, it became clear that was not going to be possible," Haley said in a statement Friday. "We decided it was better for us to pursue our growth strategies separately."
Miller & Martin was founded in Athens, Tenn., in 1887 and has added offices in Chattanooga, Nashville and Atlanta.
The Chattanooga-based firm has 180 attorneys in Tennessee and Georgia.
Miller & Martin doubled the size of its Nashville office in 1999 through the purchase of the former Sturdivant & Dewitt.