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LeClairRyan to merge with N.J.-based firm

Richmond-based LeClairRyan will merge at the end of the year with a 45-lawyer firm with offices in Manhattan and Newark, N.J.

Gary D. LeClair, chairman and co-founder of LeClairRyan, said Seiden Wayne LLC has “a great financial services practice” that will fit “just hand-in-glove with ours.”

The firm’s expertise in that area led it to open what is now a four-lawyer office in Manhattan in October 2006 and an office in Boston in July with 10 partners from the firm of Donovan Hatem LLP. That office already has expanded to 16 lawyers, LeClair said. The combined firms will have about 215 lawyers.

LeClair said the growth of the firm’s financial services practice is part of a strategic plan started in 2001 by James A. Murphy, chairman of the firm’s financial services group.

It coincided with enactment of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, which stemmed from such corporate and accounting scandals as Enron and WorldCom in an effort to make publicly traded companies and their officials more accountable.

LeClair said the act “really put a focus on this area,” which also includes investigations of the backdating of stock options and inquiries into the development of subprime housing and other financial markets.

“New York City is the financial capital of the world … and geography is relevant, especially in New York, but talent is the most relevant criterion,” he said.

Corporations seeking advice or facing exposure on Sarbanes-Oxley and corporate governance and liability issues are “looking for talent, and talent doesn’t reside only in the largest firms,” which also are very active in the practice area, LeClair said.

He said the expansion of the firm to Boston and New York is “a client-driven strategy” because it already represents “some of the largest financial institutions in the world.”

LeClair said the firm has grown every year since its founding in 1988, substantially at times, such as in the last year, and more slowly when it has taken time to digest the introduction of new technology or an unusually large number of attorneys.

“This is a huge step for us, and we’re not done yet,” he said.

Seiden Wayne was founded in 1971 in Newark and has offices in Philadelphia and Rochester, N.Y., in addition to the Manhattan office.

— Alan Cooper

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