Ragsdale, Beals, Seigler, Patterson & Gray, LLP

Ragsdale, Beals, Seigler, Patterson & Gray, LLP is an Atlanta-based law firm that specializes in construction litigation, business litigation, commercial insurance coverage issues and commercial property tax appeals. LexisNexis sat down with partner Brian Morrissey to discuss his background with the firm and his view on the small and midsize law firm market.

As large firms continue to consolidate and growth opportunities for small and midsize firms continue to expand, Mr. Morrissey shares his insights on how small and middle market firms can capitalize on the economy right where it’s at, all while providing client value through superior service.

How long have you been practicing law? Where did you go to school and how did you start your career in law?

I graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Law with honors in 1981 and took a job in Palm Beach, Fla. right out of law school. I eventually made my way back to my hometown of Atlanta and have been at RBSP&G since 2006.

From a business of law perspective, what are some of the biggest changes you’ve seen at your law firm over the last two years?

The constant stream of technology (and technology improvements) has changed everything. The level and speed of communication that we have with colleagues and clients, for example, allows for more case capacity and precision than ever before. We use LexisNexis for legal research, and in the last couple of years the tech has just gotten faster and more intelligent, which allows us to work more quickly and efficiently. That said, we understand that we are not the only firm with access to these resources so, ultimately, the skill and service of the lawyer is still the key differentiator.

What industry-wide changes in small and midsize law would you put a spotlight on? What challenges are presenting themselves and how are you dealing with them?

I think as a whole, there is a national consolidation of larger law firms, which is going to open up a lot of opportunity for midsize firms. Especially with where technology is today, firms of our size will be able to quite easily step in to meet the needs of clients who may not be willing to ride out price increases that typically come after a national or international consolidation. Midsize firms will be able to offer competitive services at a more palatable price.

As far as challenges go—what we have seen in the market is that big corporations typically want an equally large law firm to represent them. This is no secret; however, businesses are beginning to wake up to the fact that there are Big Law attorneys at many firms, including the smaller ones, and that technology has given these firms many of the same resources as the giants of the legal industry. That said, the major corporations generally aren’t our sweet spot anyways. We serve a somewhat niche market that is pretty entrepreneurial: architects, general contractors, engineers, people working in construction ... that’s really become our specialty—people who are taking risks in their own businesses. It’s certainly different than representing big-name companies, but there is a lot of business to be had in the niche market we are in. We know our clients and have gotten really good at serving them.

What practice areas are growing the most within your firm? What do you attribute that to?

Our bankruptcy practice has grown a lot in recent years—we typically represent the trustee and creditor side. Our construction group has also seen a lot of business since construction in Atlanta has been growing exponentially. We have also seen growth in our commercial property tax and corporate groups, as the economy is improving after the last downturn and people are really focusing on pursuing opportunities. I would attribute these successes to making the best business decisions based on how the economy is at the time. The health of the economy and what we can do to “go with the grain” to offer services needed right now is why we are so effective. I think people can get too ingrained in how they are used to doing things. Flexibility is key to success, in my opinion.

What is a typical day like for you?

In the mornings, I typically spend some time catching up on email. I then create a list of things to do, which helps me maximize my hours. Then I’m usually on the phone for a little bit, and then my afternoon turns into drafting pleadings, letters or briefs, and there are usually a few strategy meetings scattered throughout my week. I talk to clients on the phone or through email on a daily basis as well.

What is the best part of your job?

I love standing up in front of a jury and leading an argument. When I am speaking to the decision maker, I want them to believe I am the most reasonable person in the room. If I can get them on board with that, I have a pretty good chance of winning.

On a personal note, how do you like to spend your time when you are not at work?

I ride my bicycle on weekends and love sports, so I’m generally a pretty active person. I also enjoy oil painting as a hobby—I paint landscapes and still life—I’m actually working on one now of one of my daughters.