Partners at Powell, Goldstein, Frazer & Murphy will meet Tuesday to el…

Partners at Powell, Goldstein, Frazer & Murphy will meet Tuesday to elect James J. McAlpin Jr. to lead the Atlanta-based firm of 300 lawyers, the firm said Wednesday.

McAlpin, 45, will succeed Armin G. Brecher, 61, next March as chair of the firm’s executive committee and board of partners. He will immediately assume primary responsibility for practice management and strategic initiatives, such as mergers and acquisitions.

“We see this as a generational shift in a positive sense,” said McAlpin, who joined the firm in 1985 and most recently chaired the corporate and technology department and is a member of the executive committee.

Brecher, at the helm since 1998, will become chairman emeritus. He will return to the practice of law and lead the firm’s community activities, including providing free legal help to individuals and groups in need. James J. McAlpin Jr. will become chair of the firm’s executive committee and board of partners.

“We are one of the few firms to undertake an orderly succession plan to provide the kind of transition law firms really need,” said Brecher, noting that he approached McAlpin about the job last fall.

Powell, Goldstein’s board nominated him July 30, and it was announced at a regularly scheduled midyear partner meeting last Friday.

“It’s critical to have a succession plan to move to the next generation of leadership,” Brecher said.

Lawyer and client defections have spurred widespread speculation that Powell, Goldstein, founded in 1909, would seek a merger partner. Without elaborating, Brecher acknowledged that Powell, Goldstein has talked with firms — “both smaller and larger” — to strengthen practice areas.

While it will continue to “investigate strategic opportunities that seem to fit our firm and the general direction our partners want to take,” McAlpin said Powell, Goldstein also would seek to hire lawyers from rivals in growth areas, such as corporate finance, mergers and acquisitions, intellectual property, banking and litigation.

“I would like to see us be larger, both in Atlanta and Washington,” McAlpin said. “I have no specific numbers in mind. But we have the foundation on which to be a larger firm.”

Powell, Goldstein, with about 140 partners, last year had gross revenue of $119 million. Some 220 of its lawyers are in Atlanta. The rest are in Washington.

McAlpin, who received his undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Alabama, was the youngest partner to be elected to Powell, Goldstein’s governing board in 1997. He and his wife, Mary, have two children, Sarah and James III. They reside in Marietta.

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