Smith Gambrell Russell and Freeborn & Peters to Combine, Creating Global AmLaw 150 Firm

Jason Stearns named managing partner of Tampa office as part of new leadership in growing Florida market

TAMPA, Fla.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Smith, Gambrell & Russell, LLP and Freeborn & Peters LLP announced today that their respective partnerships have unanimously approved a combination of the two law firms. The firms – with a shared strategic vision and complementary high-value, top-tier markets and practice areas – will operate under the Smith Gambrell Russell name, effective March 1. As part of the combination, the firm also names new leadership in its Tampa office, with Jason P. Stearns as the new office managing partner.

With strong transactional and litigation platforms, the combination will result in a global firm of nearly 400 attorneys in 14 domestic and global offices, and more than $260 million in gross annual revenues. Based on those numbers, the combined firm would have ranked approximately 132 on the 2022 Am Law 200 and 116 on the NLJ 500.

“It’s rare to see a combination that is so mutually beneficial. For us, it fits perfectly within our strategic plan to bolster our corporate practice and expand to key markets across the United States, which includes growing significantly in Florida,” said Joseph T. McCullough IV, chair of Freeborn’s executive committee. “Our Freeborn attorneys have been in Tampa for more than five years with growing and dynamic practices, and we are excited to have one of the attorneys who helped open the office take over as our office managing partner.”

“This combination is particularly exciting for those of us in the Florida market,” said Stearns. “Our practices are extremely busy and growing, especially in complex commercial litigation and privacy, which is handled by Rob Stines, another one of the founding partners of the Freeborn Tampa office. With the additional presence and bench we gain with new offices across the state, we fully expect to attract and develop outstanding talent and grow even more rapidly.”

Freeborn and SGR are similarly aligned geographically. Both firms concentrate their lawyers in high value, top-tier markets, which include overlapping strategic offices in Chicago and New York. In Florida, the combined firm will add Tampa to its existing footprint of Jacksonville and Miami and have a combined total of more than 60 attorneys across the state. Both firms also achieve international growth objectives through this combination, with SGR’s existing London and Munich offices providing a platform for Freeborn to better service existing and future international clients, and SGR complementing its strong global corporate practice with Freeborn’s international litigation capabilities. The footprint of the new firm lays the foundation for future growth in all its existing key markets, domestically and internationally.

“As we began discussions of a possible combination in August, it quickly became clear that this was an exceptional opportunity to bring together two strong firms, with similar collegial cultures, operations, and ambitious plans for strategic expansion in complementary geographic markets and practice areas,” said Stephen M. Forte, SGR’s managing partner and chair of the executive committee. “We had a shared vision, and a combination could accelerate our growth in a way that single and small group lateral hires could not. We can do together what we couldn’t do alone, and we can do it without compromising our culture.”

The combination also aligns both firms’ practice area strengths. SGR’s existing branded national and global practices, particularly corporate and other transactional disciplines, are areas that Freeborn has been seeking to grow. Freeborn’s deep litigation bench augments those existing litigation capabilities that SGR added in Chicago in 2022 through its combination with litigation boutique Figliulo & Silverman P.C. In addition, SGR’s domestic and global aviation finance, international transactional, and intellectual property practices will be complemented by Freeborn’s acclaimed international arbitration, bankruptcy, and insurance and reinsurance practices.

The firms will share leadership responsibilities for the combined SGR, with a mix of SGR and Freeborn partners serving on the executive and compensation committees and in office and practice management. McCullough will be a member of the executive committee, and Forte will remain the firm’s managing partner and chair of the executive committee.

About Smith Gambrell Russell

SGR is a full service, international law firm that advises regional, national, and global businesses on a wide range of legal matters. The firm’s 285 attorneys provide legal counsel in more than 45 specialized practice areas, including corporate transactions, litigation, intellectual property, aviation, banking, real estate, construction, employment law, and employee benefits and executive compensation. Founded in 1893, SGR has offices in Atlanta; Austin; Charlotte; Chicago; Jacksonville, Fla.; London; Los Angeles; Miami; Munich; New York; Southampton; and Washington, D.C. For more information, please visit

About Freeborn & Peters

Freeborn & Peters LLP is a full-service law firm with international capabilities and offices in Chicago; New York; Springfield, Ill.; and Tampa, Fla. The firm serves clients across a broad range of sectors and targeted industries through its pioneering interdisciplinary approach. Freeborn’s major achievements in litigation are reflective of the firm’s established reputation as a Litigation Powerhouse®, with one of the largest litigation departments among full-service firms of its size. Freeborn fully embraces its core values of integrity, effectiveness, teamwork, caring and commitment, and embodies them through high standards of client service and responsive action. Freeborn is committed to always looking ahead and seeking better ways to help its clients achieve greater success. For more information, please visit


Luke Allingham


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