Merrill Mason, one of the founders of the Hutchison+Mason law firm, which works heavily in the high tech community, is leaving the firm.

Mason has decided to join Smith, Anderson, Blount, Dorsett, Mitchell & Jernigan, LLP in Raleigh.

“I am very excited about this,” Mason told WRAL Local Tech Wire in an interview. “I have known the folks at Smith Anderson for a long time. They are the gold standard.”

Mason, who will be a partner at Smith Anderson, said his decision to leave was based in part on needs of his clients.

“I have got developing client needs that would be served better by a broader platform,” he explained. Smith, Anderson is one of the largest law firms in the state, employing some 90 lawyers. Hutchsion+Mason employed 19. “This gives me resources.

“I work with early stage companies in information technology and life sciences. Smith Anderson has got a deeper bench to help support them.” He cited the availability of lawyers for mergers and acquisitions, securities practices, litigation, real estate and healthcare as strengths of the bigger firm.

The move was not a sudden one, either, Mason said.

“It’s been a developing situation,” he said. “It’s been in the works for a while.”

Mason, 45 and a graduate of the University of North Carolina law school, had worked side by side with Fred Hutchison for more than a decade.

“As you know, we are a close-knit law firm, so the departure of any of our partners is difficult,” said Hutchison, who co-founded Hutchison+Mason with Mason in 1996, in an email.

Jim Verdonik, who once worked with both Hutchison and Mason, said he wasn’t surprised that a lawyer would leave a firm he helped found.

“The days when a lawyer would go on at one law firm are gone,” said Verdonik, who is part of Daniels, Daniels & Verdonik. “People jump around.

“Fortunately, the high tech community is growing fast enough now that there is room for all the good attorneys,” he added.

Mason’s decision to leave splits two attorneys who have worked together for years. Mason and Hutchison worked at Petree Stockton (now Kilpatrick Stockton) even before launching their own firm.

“It has been a privilege to work with Merrill over our many years together,” Hutchison said in a press release. “We wish him the very best.”

Mason expressed similar feelings.

“I have the highest respect for Fred,” Mason said. “He has a super reputation, and he is a great lawyer.”

Verdonik, who worked with the duo at Petree Stockton, had high praise for both lawyers.

“I have a great deal of respect for them both,” Verdonik said. “I’m sure they will do well in the future.”

Hutchison+Mason represents numerous information technology and life science companies across the Southeast. Many of those clients are in the Triangle.

“I am confident that our longstanding team approach to client service will allow us to make this transition smoothly,” Hutchison said in the email.

Nine Hutchison+Mason clients cracked the most recent Triangle Fast 50 awards. Six of their clients were selected to present at the recent SEBio Conference in Charleston, SC.

“I can assure you that we remain committed to being the preeminent law firm serving the technology community in the Southeast,” Hutchison added in the email.


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