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Rafuse Hill & Hodges Merges with Kansas City's Polsinelli

Fast-growing firm to establish an Atlanta office with 11-lawyer litigation boutique

, Daily Report

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Nancy Rafuse is a founding member of the labor and employment firm that opened in 2003.
Nancy Rafuse is a founding member of the labor and employment firm that opened in 2003.

Litigation boutique Rafuse Hill & Hodges is merging with Polsinelli, a 680-lawyer firm with roots in Kansas City, Mo., that has expanded rapidly to establish a national presence over the past five years. The combination, effective Jan. 1, gives Polsinelli an office in Atlanta.

Nancy Rafuse, the managing partner of Rafuse Hill & Hodges, said all of her firm's 11 lawyers plus staff will join Polsinelli, an Am Law 200 business and litigation firm.

"This opportunity really spoke to [William] Hill and I and Ken [Hodges]. Just because you've been doing the same thing for 10 years does not mean you are not going to consider opportunities," Rafuse said.

The combination is a chance for Rafuse Hill & Hodges' lawyers to expand work for existing clients and add new ones, she said. "Clients that come to us for bet-your-company employment and IP cases also have corporate and tax needs. We can provide the full range of services."

Rafuse and R. Lawrence Ashe left Paul Hastings in 2003 to start the labor and employment boutique, which also handles business litigation. Another Paul Hastings partner, William Hill Jr., a one-time Fulton County state and superior court judge, joined the following year, forming Ashe Rafuse & Hill.

Ashe left abruptly in April to become senior counsel at Parker, Hudson, Rainer & Dobbs. The 72-year old litigator told the Daily Report at the time that the other three equity partners—Rafuse, Hill and Kenneth Hodges III—tried to push him into retirement and he resigned instead. Rafuse told the Daily Report in the same report that Ashe's resignation was a surprise.

The firm became Rafuse Hill & Hodges after Ashe's departure. A former Dougherty County district attorney, Hodges joined the firm after an unsuccessful run as Democratic nominee for attorney general in 2010.

Rafuse said on Monday that the firm's decision to merge with Polsinelli was unrelated to Ashe's departure. The firm has shrunk from 16 lawyers at that time to 11.

Polsinelli has been on a growth spree for the past five years, despite the recession. It has more than doubled in size—from 300 lawyers to about 680—since a transformative combination in February 2009, when it acquired another Kansas City firm, Shughart Thomson & Kilroy, with 180 lawyers.

Since then Polsinelli has added 200 more lawyers through lateral hires and acquisitions, and it has opened offices in Denver, Dallas, Phoenix and Los Angeles. It opened a four-lawyer Chattonooga office earlier this year.

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