Spotlight On:
John McDonald, Charlotte Office Managing Partner, McGuireWoods

Spotlight On:
John McDonald, Charlotte Office Managing Partner, McGuireWoods

By: Felipe Rivas

John G. McDonald at McGuireWoods on December 12, 2017 in Charlotte, North Carolina.

2 min read December 2019 — The economy and legal services go hand in hand. As a result, Charlotte, well-known for its banking and financial services industry, is attracting top legal talent. With the rise of the region’s healthcare and technology sectors, the legal needs of the business community are evolving with the diversification of the economy. In an interview with Invest: Charlotte, McGuireWoods Charlotte Office Managing Partner John McDonald talks about the factors that influence the region’s legal market, the large talent pool available, and outlooks for the legal market heading into 2020.

How have the legal needs of the business community evolved with the growth of the region?

The majority of the lawyers in our Charlotte office are involved in the financial services sector in some fashion, whether that is through securities, debt finance, or litigation practices. Charlotte’s large banking community influences the work we do. We also have one of the largest healthcare practices in Charlotte. We are nationally known for our healthcare practice and Charlotte is our second-largest hub for that practice. We also have a very strong energy practice and work with a number of energy clients in the region, as well as nationally. The legal needs of the Charlotte community are very sophisticated. Major national and global companies, such as Bank of America, Wells Fargo and Duke Energy, bring sophistication to the business world, which translates to the legal market. Firms in the Charlotte market have to provide high-end legal services because of the sophistication of the work that is demanded by our clients. 

What do law firms need to do differently in today’s technological era to attract and retain clients?

Generally, lawyers by nature are behind the curve because we are cautious and skeptical, especially when it comes to new technologies. Part of McGuireWoods’ strategic plan is to identify and embrace technology that will help us better serve our clients. Whether through artificial intelligence or data analytics, we are always looking for ways to leverage technology to help us drive the results our clients are looking for. Technology can help us identify legal factors and anticipate issues to accomplish the desired results in the most cost-effective way. If firms do not embrace the use of technology, they will fall behind.

What is the state of the region’s legal talent pool? 

We recruit from the regional law schools. Charlotte draws lawyers from across the country. In a dynamic market like this, it can be challenging to both attract and retain qualified talent. There is a lot of competition. In addition, the in-house market for lawyers is really impressive in Charlotte. Between the banks and other major corporations in the area, there are a lot of sophisticated in-house legal teams that are an attractive option for some of our lawyers. We acknowledge this, and frankly, it can be a great opportunity for us. When our lawyers leave, they almost always end up going to an in-house team. That is a great way for us to build relationships with clients. At McGuireWoods, our lawyers are always looking for ways to help their community, which they do through pro-bono work or by serving on nonprofit boards. Over 90 percent of our lawyers provide pro-bono services on an annual basis. We take great pride in this and are always looking for ways to do more. I find that law students today have a great sense of wanting to give back. 

What is the outlook for Charlotte’s legal sector heading into 2020?

The national and international economies impact the work in the financial services sector. There are signs that some sectors of the national economy might be slowing. That is a concern and we need to prepare for that. At the same time, in the legal market, there is always work to do regardless of the economy. We have to be able to adjust and recognize our clients’ needs and how they are impacted by the broader economy. Overall, we are excited about what 2020 has in store. I know our clients are trying to put together some amazing deals and there is a lot of optimism that it will be a great 2020.

To learn more about our interviewee, visit: