Prominent Columbia law firm founded by former governor acquired by out-of-state group

The McNair Law Firm’s Columbia office is located in the Main and Gervais building. McNair is being acquired by Southeastern law firm Burr & Forman LLP.
The McNair Law Firm’s Columbia office is located in the Main and Gervais building. McNair is being acquired by Southeastern law firm Burr & Forman LLP. tglantz@thestate.com

One of the most powerful and prominent law firms in Columbia and South Carolina is being bought.

McNair Law Firm is being acquired by Burr & Forman of Birmingham, Ala. It’s a move that the companies’ leaders are heralding but also one that will do away with the well-known McNair name.

“Unlike many law firms outside the region who have entered into the Carolinas to capitalize on the area’s growth, McNair understands the intricacies of doing business in South and North Carolina and immediately provides Burr & Forman with an established history and tradition in the Carolinas – being founded by former governor Robert McNair nearly 50 years ago,” said Ed Christian, CEO of Burr & Forman, in a statement announcing the acquisition Thursday.

McNair Law Firm was founded in 1971 by former S.C. Gov. Robert McNair, who served from 1965 to 1971. Before becoming governor, McNair served as lieutenant governor and as a representative in the State House. He left public office and founded the law firm to provide legal services “at the intersection of business and government,” in the words of the company’s history.

With 84 attorneys working in seven offices across South Carolina and in Charlotte, N.C., McNair’s expertise includes helping hospital systems navigate state regulations and counseling companies wanting to do business in South Carolina.

The firm represents major companies such as the Prisma hospital group (formerly Palmetto Health Systems), Marriott Resorts and EDENS, a large retail developer.

McNair also is known for representing public entities, including the University of South Carolina and the city of Columbia.

The work and reputation of the law firm won’t be changing, according to Christian, and day-to-day operations are staying the same.

“The intention is that it will stay the same and be as it is,” said Christian, who will serve as CEO of the new, expanded law firm. “We don’t want to change or alter that in any way.”

The biggest change is the law firm’s new name. For two years, the merged offices will be known as Burr, Forman and McNair. After that period, the McNair name will be dropped, and the law firm will be known as Burr & Forman.

The acquisition takes effect Jan. 1, 2019, giving the new legal offices more than 350 legal and business professionals.

Both firms’ leaders “overwhelmingly” voted for the merger, and they’ve received nothing but positive feedback from clients, according to David Tigges, current CEO of McNair Law Firm.

That affirmation from clients comes from the fact that “we will have a deeper bench and be able to provide them broader services,” Tigges said. “Other than a different name, the delivery of services should not changes. And if it does change, it should be enhanced.”

Burr & Forman was founded in 1905 in Birmingham, Ala., and has offices in seven states, primarily in the Southeast.