A law firm best known for its close ties with state powerbrokers now wants to build more relationships with entrepreneurs.

Poyner & Spruill, whose ranks once included former Gov. Jim Hunt and former state Supreme Court Justice Phil Carlton and still house some of the state’s top lobbyists, is putting more emphasis on its technology business to diversify its base further and expand its client roster.

“We’ve done some technology work for years but without a high profile,” says Poyner partner Jim O’Brien, who heads the firm’s technology practice. “Our reputation is that we’re an old-line firm that isn’t interested in the area’s technology businesses. We want to change that perception and emphasize our strengths.”

The firm has hired Grayson Hale to help make that happen.

Hale cut his teeth at Brobeck Phleger & Harrison, a San Francisco-based technology law firm whose client roster includes Cisco Systems, Ericsson, Intel, Sun Microsystems, E*Trade Group and DoubleClick. He was one of five lawyers to launch Brobeck’s office in Dallas and has helped take several companies public, such as communications equipment maker Microtune.

New challenges

“Grayson has the expertise we need and will be able to step right in without much effort,” O’Brien says, noting that Hale isn’t yet licensed to practice in North Carolina.

Hale moved to Raleigh in January from Dallas, where he most recently spent two years with Jenkens & Gilchrist, another technology law specialist. He says his position offers new challenges and opportunities.

“There’s a great base of technology here that is only going to get stronger,” he says. “You get lost in a large firm like Brobeck, and you also get locked into doing nothing but technology. With a smaller firm, especially a full-service one like Poyner & Spruill, I have more flexibility.”

Range of services

O’Brien and Hale say they will emphasize Poyner’s array of practice areas, including tax law, intellectual property law, employment law and mergers and acquisitions, to attract new clients in the face of more well-known technology specialists in North Carolina such as Kilpatrick Stockton, Hutchison & Mason, Morris Manning & Martin and Daniels & Daniels.

“We’re not just limited to high-tech,” O’Brien says. “We can bring a lot of resources to young companies.”

Poyner already counts Information and Network Services of Cary and Durham-based business telecommunications provider Bandwidth.com among its clients.

Hale, who also is a CPA, says he plans to pitch the combination of his background with that of O’Brien and the other two members of the technology practice, partner Dave Krosner and associate Jason Schneider, to entrepreneurs and venture capitalists as well.
“We have a team of experienced partners and young go-getters that should allow us to bring in a lot of work,” he says.