It’s finally time to wrap-up this New Year’s series. As I mentioned in Part 1, I thought it would be fun use the Wayback Machine to take a look back at how professional websites—law firm sites, in particular—have evolved over the last 25 years. It’s my way of saying Thank You to those I’ve worked with and those who have supported the blog over the last 8 years.
In Part 3, I’ll mainly focus on Atlanta firms with bankruptcy departments, large and small.
The larger firms get a longer look in this series only because their sites were generally established earlier (meaning they likely had funnier content) and indexed more frequently than the smaller firms (meaning more content is available). The larger firms were also the starting point for so many of our Georgia friends before they went out on their own.
I must note that there were so many firms that I wanted to cover and I looked into pretty deeply but ultimately couldn’t cover due to indexing issues. If you see your logo in the picture but didn’t see any coverage, then just know I tried really hard.
(As a reminder, many of the website photos below are clickable but warning that the Archive seems to be down intermittently this morning.)
GlassRatner (n/k/a B. Riley Financial)
My first connection to GlassRatner is, of course, Richard Gaudet (now at GGG Partners), easily my closest colleague outside of Stone & Baxter. Richard has, more than anyone else besides Ward Stone, made my financial restructuring career. He has always been a big supporter of the blog and without Richard I wouldn’t get to wear that “Author” badge at ABI Conferences—those are cool to wear, right? Jessica and the girls don’t think so.
Additionally, I can’t mention Richard without also mentioning Debbie Jackson and Jessica Talley-Peterson (also now at GGG). If those three were on your team, there was going to be a successful reorganization or workout. I’m having fun now, but 2010 to 2015 is hard to beat.
Anyway, of that team’s various firms, GlassRatner provides the best lookback for this post. Here’s the website back in October 2002 when it was first indexed. Was the team really that small?
And look at Ron and Ian, the founders, back 20 years ago:
Richard joined in 2004. Here’s the team in 2005 when he was first indexed:
(Richard might be happy that there are no indexed photos for him.)
The website didn’t cooperate to locate Jessica’s profile (she joined in 2007) or Debbie’s profile (she joined in 2010). Instead, I’ll leave you with a good quote from Richard in 2011 in the Atlanta Journal Constitution that GlassRatner made sure to link to:
There’s an old adage. If you owe the bank $10,000, they own you. If you owe the bank $1 million, you own them. The adage is still true, there are just more zeroes.
Northern District of Georgia Bankruptcy Court
I already covered the Southern District of New York, the Delaware, and the Middle District of Georgia Bankruptcy Courts. Here is Northern District of Georgia back in 1999 when Judge Cotton was the Chief Judge and Yvonne Evans was the Clerk of Court:
Southern District of Georgia Bankruptcy Court
And for completeness, here is the Southern District. While it had a fixed page as early as 1998 showing just the courthouse addresses, here it is in February 2002:
Remember that old, still pending Chapter 11 case from 2002 that I mentioned in Part 1? Well, you can barely see it, but that case made the Court’s main page for a number of years starting back in 2002 and eventually linked viewers over to Trumbull Bankruptcy Services to handle claims noticing. Epiq later bought Trumbull.
At 48, Ward was just 2 years older than I am now when he filed the Involuntary Petition (based on a mere $290,086 in petitioning claims) and then, a few months later, filed the Employment Application to represent the Creditors Committee. And 22 years later, with Judge Davis getting it first, and then Judge Dalis, and now Judge Kim, the case is still going on (although finally wrapping-up, we think). As we like to joke, that case is old enough to drink.
Alston & Bird
It might be imagined, but I sensed a competition between King & Spalding and Alston & Bird in the late ’90s website race. Like K&S’s site in Part 1, the A&B website bears a long look here. I looked at dozens and dozens of sites going back 25 years and, as it turns out, K&S and A&B really went all out on the sort of content that I found to be entertaining years later.
A&B’s 1998 Website
It was first indexed in December 1998 (a good two years after K&S) and started with this fancy GIF:
And this, featuring One Atlantic Center:
With an impressive lobby and a cozy library via these late 90s photos:
Back in 1998, A&B had just four offices compared to thirteen offices in 2023:
Click here for the 1997-1998 NALP form for A&B, which included:
Although I’m sure it was consistent with the other big firms at the time, A&B’s new associates were effectively getting paid $28.62 per hour in 1996. If those “hours worked” figures still hold-up, then, at $215,000 for starting associates in 2022, it was $91.84 per hour in 2022.
A&B’s 1990s Technology
A&B’s site is notable for having the most extensive—almost obsessively extensive—technology narrative, stating in 1998 that A&B had “more technology and intellectual property capacity than any U.S. law firm east of the San Francisco/Palo Alto area.”
- Recording deposition testimony with “laserdisc technology”? Check.
- “Internet e-mail” using “MCI Mail” and “Lotus Notes”? Check.
- “Pentium desktop computers running Windows NT”? Check.
My back hurts just reading about A&B’s special ops trial teams who A&B’s “MIS Department” outfitted “with laptops, printers, and modems” for connecting to the “home base” while those teams were on the road.
“Everything we need is a modem connection away.”
While the home base at One Atlantic Center has long since transitioned to fiber, there is no doubt that A&B’s “1.54mbs T-1 connection” was working overtime in the late 90s, not only powering the firm’s “VIS Omega” video conferencing on the “H.320 interoperability standard,” but also one enterprising A&B attorney’s use of an email “listserver” to get cutting edge tax advice during a heated Florida contract negotiation. Read it all for yourself.
A screen grab, featuring the VSI Omega video conferencing technology:
And hold onto your seats, because A&B had “nearly 10 gigabytes” of legal documents on its “Intranet” that lawyers could use “Netscape Navigator” to search through!
Quick 1970s/1980s Technology Detour
I find the following detour fascinating. I hope you do, too.
A&B’s technology focus doesn’t surprise me after hearing my Stone & Baxter colleague Braden Copeland tell stories about how he started tagging along with his dad to Alston & Bird’s offices back in the mid to late 70s. His father, Dean Copeland, now retired, was a longtime M&A, securities, and bank lawyer at A&B. He started there in or about 1967 when A&B was Alston, Miller & Gaines and before its merger with Jones, Bird & Howell in 1982.
When Braden tagged along, A&B, which had not yet made its move to One Atlantic Center, was still co-located in three buildings in downtown Atlanta: the C&S Bank Building at 35 Broad Street; the William Oliver Building at 32 Peachtree; and the NBG Building right next door at 34 Peachtree.
[My wife Jessica’s grandmother worked as a secretary in the William Oliver building back in the late 1940s when Jessica’s grandfather was at Georgia Tech and, it just so happens, I lived in the William Oliver building in 2000 after it had been converted it to condos.]
Similar to Jim Pardo’s and Ward’s memories of using Delta Dash for 5th Circuit appellate briefs (see Part 1), Braden has “low-tech” memories in 1980 of accompanying his dad and his dad’s colleagues to an all-nighter at Stein Printing to finalize and print SEC filings—a dark and dank place (almost right underneath an I-85 exit near Midtown), with lead slugs, printer plates, old brown carpet, and gas station quality coffee. In the morning, a young A&B lawyer would then board Delta’s “Early Bird” flight to D.C. with a big box of documents for hand filing at the SEC. Cecil Phillips, also a former A&B partner, now Braden’s business partner, and one of those young “Early Bird” carriers, is pretty confident that A&B’s run of 13 public offerings in 12 months in those pre-technology days had to be a record.
Braden has “hi-tech” memories of his dad, who (like Braden) was always the first to the office, turning on one of A&B’s Xerox machines each morning for its 20-minute warm-up. Braden has even more “high-tech” memories of visiting the office with his mom and sister Albie so that his dad could show off A&B’s new Wang Word Processing System. The firm had set it up in a dedicated room, with ivory-colored keyboards and “green screens” that were all networked to an ivory-colored mainframe of sorts. Later on, A&B’s offices provided a nice study haven for Braden when he was a young Westminster student.
[I’ll reference it again: If you want a detailed, nitty gritty account of big firm life, including that rich period between 1960 and 1990, then check-out Lincoln Caplan’s book “Skadden: Power, Money, and the Rise of a Legal Empire.”
A&B Bankruptcy Department
Moving onto to the A&B Bankruptcy Department, back when it was just 9 bankruptcy lawyers in Atlanta (compared to 36 bankruptcy lawyers across the country in 2023):
Below, you have Neal Batson (in his 50’s), who was barely five years away from issuing his Examiner’s Report in the Enron bankruptcy; A&B mainstays Dennis Connolly and Grant Stein, who were still just in their late 30s and early 40s, respectively ; and Matthew Levin in his early 30s. Among other things, Dennis represented Neal in the Enron case; Grant was A&B’s bankruptcy practice lead at the time; and I’m sure Matthew, who is now at Scroggins & Williamson, was there to support their efforts.
Like Sarah Borders and Mark Maloney at King & Spalding, Dennis and Grant have to be A&B’s longest still-serving bankruptcy attorneys.
A few years later, the Bankruptcy Department had expanded to include a number of now well-known folks, including Mark Duedall (who has always been such a big supporter of this blog and is now at Bryan Cave); Bill Boone (who later joined James Bates); Sean Kulka (now at AGG), and Jason Watson (now at Morris Manning and pictured—his was the only one I could find of that group):
While Greenberg Traurig also has a sizable alumni network for our purposes, it didn’t have an Atlanta presence until July 1998 when entertainment lawyer Joel Katz joined his firm with Greenberg. Earlier that year in January, Greenberg looked like this:
Before moving to the 2002 formation of the Atlanta bankruptcy practice, I wanted to share this image, where the Archive just happened to index the Greenberg front page in September 2001 to capture the firm’s message about 9/11:
Moving forward, Greenberg established its Atlanta bankruptcy practice in February 2002 when (now Bankruptcy Judge) Jim Sacca and David Kurzweil, along with their associates Windy Hillman and Mike Wing, left Kritzer & Levick to join Greenberg. By then, Greenberg Atlanta had grown from 6 to 45 lawyers.
If I understand it correctly, Altman had already joined Greenberg, turning Altman, Kritzer & Levick into Kritzer & Levick (which later became Hartman Simons). And before Kritzer & Levick, Jim and David were at Macey, Wilensky, Cohen, Wittner & Kessler, the “feeder firm of all feeder firms” that I could probably do an entire post on. You can really get tangled-up tracking all of the moves and merges back then. I couldn’t cover Macey Wilensky in this series, but here’s Will Rountree’s profile from 2002. You can click around from there.
John Elrod, who is now the Vice-Chair of Greenberg’s Atlanta Financial Restructuring Group, left Burr & Forman and joined Greenberg in 2004. His 2006 profile is here. At that time, the Atlanta Bankruptcy Department consisted of (now Bankruptcy Judge) Jim Sacca, David Kurzweil, David Minkin, John Elrod (all pictured below) and Stephen Palmer, Michael Shaw, and Mike Wing (whose pictures didn’t index):
For Georgia bankruptcy folks, “Dentons” is just the technically correct name for a series of firms that preceded McKenna, Long & Aldridge’s merger with Dentons in 2015. Gary Marsh (now at Troutman Pepper and a good friend to the blog) can correct me if I’m wrong, but the website story starts with Long, Aldridge & Norman. Their November 1996 site appears to predate the K&S site by a month.
This image has three of LAN’s original website office photos combined side-by-side. The firm was located at One Peachtree Center (now Truist Plaza) and, at the time, had 150 lawyers in Atlanta:
The creditor-oriented Financial Restructuring practice, headed-up by John Aldridge and Mark Kaufman, looked like this in January 1999, with Gary having been there for a little while and (now Bankruptcy Judge) Jeffery Cavender and Henry Sewell having been added to the mix, among others:
Marsh, Cavender, and Sewell (which has a nice ring to it), each, I believe, still in their 30s:
In 2002, LNA would merge with D.C. firm McKenna & Cueno to become McKenna, Long & Aldridge. Here’s the Bankruptcy Department in April 2003:
Pictured below in 2003: John Aldridge; Mark Kaufman; Michael Levengood (who is a good supporter of the blog); Gary Marsh (a longtime friend of the blog); Henry Sewell; (now Bankruptcy Judge) Jeffery Cavender; and (now Professor) Summer Chandler.
As Gary Marsh is now at Troutman Pepper (formerly Troutman Sanders), I’ll move next to Troutman. Its site goes back to December 12, 1998 in the Archive and looked like this:
With the Bankruptcy Department made up of the following, including (now Retired Bankruptcy Judge) Mary Grace Diehl; Ezra Cohen (who was a bankruptcy judge from 1976 to 1979 before rejoining the firm); Tom Walker, and Harris Winsberg (all pictured below):
Garrett Nail joined in 2007 and Matt Brooks joined in 2008. Garrett’s and Matt’s “yearbook photos” weren’t indexed back then but I’ve linked to oldest profiles I could find. Among others, Jeff Kelley (the Bankruptcy Practice Group leader at the time and now retired) and Carolyn Richter were also on the team by then:
Speaking of Carolyn, when I was cleaning out my office over the Summer for our office move, I came across a handwritten thank you note from Carolyn from 2015, back when she was Georgia’s Bankruptcy Law Section Chair and coordinating the speakers for the annual Bankruptcy Conference at Lake Oconee. Such a simple but nice gesture.
Morris, Manning & Martin
Morris Manning is indexed back to December 1998 and looked like this:
Back then, the Creditor’s Rights and Bankruptcy Department consisted of, among a couple of others, Nicholas Sears, David Cranshaw, David Rabin, Frank DeBorde, and Beth Rogers (with all except Frank pictured here in or about 1998):
If you fast forward to October 2006 when Lisa Wolgast joined the firm, the site had been updated a few times and looked like this:
While I couldn’t get the Archive to cooperate for Lisa, here’s the Bankruptcy Department’s attorney roster at or about the time that Lisa joined:
The pictures that got indexed then (with Frank’s picture appearing):
Arnall Golden & Gregory
Website-wise, AGG dates back to at least December 27, 1996, which puts it on K&S’s and Morris Manning’s timeline and, thus, has it with the MS-Paint looking site logo—click it for the whole page:
This might be the only “photo” on that very basic 1996 AGG site—click to read the firm’s history as told in 1996:
In late 1996, AGG had over 100 attorneys at One Atlantic Center on or about the 28th floor. However, as I mentioned in my tribute to Stone & Baxter’s Jerry Kaplan, AGG’s bankruptcy department in 1996 consisted solely of S&B alums Jerry Kaplan, (now Chief Bankruptcy Judge) Jim Smith, and Ron Thomason out of Macon. Ward had already left by AGG by then:
Two years later, AGG gave its frontpage a pleasant update but mostly maintained the same backend:
By the way, the site advertised a “Website Audit” that AGG could perform to identify “legal pitfalls” for a one-time fee of $2,500 for private companies and $3,500 for public companies.
While the firm never appears to have gotten its Virtual Artwork Tour off the ground, AGG did provide an extensive inventory of its art collection, which it described as “one of the finest corporate art collections in the country.”
And just to preserve our own guru’s work product, click the following link for an article that Jerry Kaplan and Blake Lisenby wrote in October 2002 for the Georgia Bar Journal titled “The Law of Check Clearing: A Primer on the Midnight Deadline Rule in Georgia”.
Finally, don’t quote me on the dates, but in or around 2003, give or take, the bankruptcy department consisted of, among others, Jerry, Jim, and Ron, as well as Darryl Laddin, Hayden Kepner, Michael Holbein, Neil Gordon, and Blake Lisenby:
Due to indexing issues, there isn’t much to show here for Powell Goldstein (which later merged into Bryan Cave), but I like highlighting “lawyers turned judges.”
Here’s the site in 2004:
Smith Gambrell & Russell
For the same reason, I’ll highlight Smith Gambrell to pick-up (now Chief Bankruptcy Judge) Barbara Ellis-Monro.
Here’s the site in 1999:
And the Bankruptcy Department at that time:
Same for Seyfarth Shaw. Here’s the site in 2001:
(Unfortunately, the only current Northern District Bankruptcy judge who I couldn’t get the Archive to work for very well is Judge Lisa Ritchey Craig. I finally found the website for McCullough Payne & Haan. Click here for her profile in 2010).
Jones & Walden
Now we move to the good guys—the small debtor firms. Their sites tend to be more difficult because smaller firms didn’t pour as much into websites back then like the big firms did.
In 2001, Leon and his good friend Philip M. Walden, Jr. (who died tragically in 2011) founded Jones & Walden.
Here’s their website back in 2008, which is as far back as I can get it to work:
And the attorney roster in 2008:
Cohen Pollock Merlin & Small
At the time, their bankruptcy roster looked like this (with Anna Humnicky, another one of our favorites, on the list):
Lamberth, Cifelli, Ellis & Nason
Of course, Michael Lamberth’s firm is one of the longtime debtor firms in Georgia. My “Georgia Origin Story” is that David Meschan, the bankruptcy partner (and my mentor) at what used to be known as Tuggle Duggins & Meschan, was best friends with Jim Frenzel from Jim’s time at Womble in North Carolina. He set me up with two interviews in late 2009: the first at Lamberth Cifelli on a Thursday and the second at Stone & Baxter on the Friday after.
Anyway, their firm is difficult to index because every time there’s a named partner change, the name of firm and the website address changes. Further, at one point they changed the format of the domain name altogether. Thus, I’m proud of myself for tracking their website all of the way back to (now Bankruptcy Judge) Paul Bonapfel.
Here’s the website back in 2001:
You can click here to see the (photo-less) attorney profiles. Here’s the roster in 1998:
Bill Matthews, who practiced there for 14 years and at AGG for almost 6 years and is now at Jones & Walden, joined the Lamberth firm in 2001. He has always been a big supporter of Plan Proponent. Click here for his 2001 profile.
Finally, and this is best part, I uncovered Vol. 1 Issue 1 of the firm’s “Pointers & Pitfalls” newsletter, all of the way back to early 1998. Click here for a list of old issues and click here for the very first issue. Carter Stout was the editor.
Out of State Firms (including Bilzin Sumberg)
In addition to all of the firms in Georgia that I couldn’t cover, mostly due to technical issues, there are so many firms outside of Georgia that I wanted to cover. To be sure, I searched pretty hard to make that coverage work, but, for a variety of reasons, it didn’t work, especially for smaller firms. A few firms come to mind, such as Stichter, Riedel, Blain & Postler (with Florida lawyer Edward Peterson being a supporter); McCraney Montagnet Quin & Noble (in Mississippi); Phelps Dunbar (in Mississippi); and Polsinelli. That’s not including all of the “B Firms,” as I call them—Balch & Bingham; Baker Donelson; and Burr & Forman—firms that originated outside of Georgia. [You can click those links to at least see what the oldest versions of their sites looked like.]
Anyway, one firm that I wanted to cover that did work is Bilzin Sumberg out of Miami. Not only has Jay Sakalo had nice things to say about the blog over the years, but his former firm was big enough to provide some good, and even unique visual, material for the Archive.
If I’m understanding it correctly, here’s a screen grab from the Bilzin website right before the firm merged-in the bankruptcy department from Stroock & Stroock & Lavan that was led by Scott Baena and included Jay:
And then here is the site right after that, in or about late October 2000:
And then the “Insolvency” department as of January 2001:
At 45 minutes of reading over this three-part series, I’ll abruptly (and mercifully for my wife and for our readers) come to a stop. Thanks so much for reading and Happy New Year!