Any small or mid-size law firm that experiences rapid growth faces myriad challenges – not the least of which is how to define its culture. This can sometimes prove difficult when many veteran attorneys with differing philosophies come together under one roof. But not McKee Nelson LLP. Though the firm – founded just five years ago by Bill McKee and Will Nelson – already boasts more than 120 attorneys practicing in tax planning and tax litigation, structured finance and white-collar investigations in New York and Washington, D.C., its culture came with the partners it hired. “We all share the same vision,” says partner Robert Wipperman. “We have high standards for ourselves and our practice.”
What the firm doesn’t do, however, is try to be all things to all clients. “In the few areas we’re in, we perform at the highest level,” says partner Laurence Isaacson. This idea is at the heart of McKee Nelson’s philosophy and is a benchmark of the firm: intense concentration in highly targeted areas that highlight its razor-sharp expertise.
In its short history, the firm has already established itself as a major player able to handle some of the most complex financial transactions a business can face. For instance, in 2004, McKee Nelson assisted in some 732 debt- and equity-related transactions worth more than $400 billion – ranking it first among manager legal advisors for U.S. deals. It was also the top manager legal advisor for all U.S. asset-backed and mortgage-backed transactions. “There isn’t another firm of this size, or age, that’s doing the kind of work that we’re doing,” Mr. Isaacson says.
And the firm, which opened its New York office three years ago, has a certain measure of pride in helping bolster the economic future of the city. In a move that will lend long-term economic support to the area, McKee Nelson recently moved its office from midtown Manhattan to a sprawling space downtown. “It’s a good fit for us,” says partner Edward De Sear, pictured above with Mr. Isaacson and Mr. Wipperman. “It gives us easy access to our downtown clients and coincides with our need for more space. We take pride in contributing to the revitalization of downtown Manhattan, which, with its dramatic harbor views and rich history, has always been a very nice place to work.”
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