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

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

By: Felipe Rivas

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:

Spotlight on: William Burns, Tax Office Managing Partner, BDO

By Yolanda Rivas

2 min read JULY 2019 — Accountants and financial professionals play an important role in the global economy and business model, taking on an array of roles within organizations in all industries. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics the employment of accountants and auditors is projected to grow 10 percent from 2016 to 2026, faster than the average for all occupations. 

Accountants can bring a significant perspective of the economy and industries growth. Our ‘Spotlight on’ for this week brings a perspective of what are the industries looking for in regards to advisory and how the local accounting companies impact the labor pool.

BDO offers a wide range of services including advisory, audit/assurance and tax services. Which are most in demand in Philadelphia?  

The core services that we provide in Philadelphia are audit and tax, which is where we are seeing the most demand. Our recent acquisition of AC Lordi will allow us to bolster what we can do regarding advisory and scale us up to the next level. We have seen an increase in demand for our services from healthcare, life sciences, and manufacturing and distribution. In addition, we have seen an influx of people reaching out for advice regarding maximizing the benefits of tax reform. We expect to see an increased demand for advisory services related to tax reform, especially surrounding Opportunity Zones.

What are BDO’s efforts to recruit talent from the local pool?

Six years ago, BDO merged a select group of geographically close practices, retiring a number of partners and ushering in a new class. We now find ourselves in a position where we can grow exponentially in one of the largest markets in the country. Our focus on targeted growth means we are constantly adding talent as we look to expanding our tax specialties.

There is always a hunt for qualified talent. To combat that, we try to over-hire at the entry level. Turnover in our industry is relatively high and by attracting more students at the front end we have more opportunity to offer them higher positions when people decide to leave. We have partnerships with local universities and we recruit on a regional and national level. We also have a program to identify and attract students to the region from all over the nation.

What Impact does technology have on the accounting and financial sectors?

Technology has a huge impact on how we operate, since most of what we do is software driven. Data analytics is making us more efficient and many firms are using it as a tool within their audit and tax practices. Those firms that aren’t focused on using and developing technology are going to lag behind.

To learn more about our interviewee, visit: 

Philly Life Science Leaders Boosting Infrastructure, Partnerships

by Yolanda Rivas


2 min read July 2019 — With more than 800 related companies and a rich network of health and education systems, the life sciences sector in Greater Philadelphia is growing at a steady pace. All the activity is driving local organizations to develop new infrastructure and local partnerships to cater the burgeoning segment. One prime example: uCity Square 

“There’s nothing like it right now in the Philadelphia region,” Steve Zarrilli, president and CEO of the University City Science Center, told Invest:. A community for entrepreneurs and innovators, uCity Square is an example of the recent efforts to connect businesses, residents, institutions and innovators to form a growing hub in Philadelphia.“Spark Therapeutics and Invisible Sentinel are two of the companies located in University City, and we recently announced that Amicus Therapeutics is creating one of its research centers here as well. These and other companies at uCity Square will play a significant role in the growth of Philadelphia’s life sciences sector,” Zarilli said. 

More than 80 percent of all companies in the life sciences industry have a presence in the Greater Philadelphia region. As stated in Invest: Philadelphia 2019, health-focused sectors provided an economic impact of $88.5 billion for Pennsylvania in 2016 and an economic output of $24.6 billion total between 2011 and 2016 for the Greater Philadelphia region.

Numerous research, biotech and medical devices organizations contribute to the role of life sciences as a key player in Philadelphia’s economy. The pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) is an example of that impact, with more than 3,400 people employed at its Upper Providence research and development facility. According to GSK Vice President of Medicine Opportunities Research Unit David Payne, the site is the company’s hub for pharmaceutical R&D in the United States, and represents 40% of its global pharmaceutical R&D workforce. 

As part of its efforts to contribute to the local life sciences sector, GSK continues to look for partnerships and alliances. “We want our U.S. R&D hub at Upper Providence to be a magnet for talented scientists, researchers and physicians. This is a great research center for innovators to build their careers. Every function required in the ‘molecule to medicine’ journey is represented at our hub, providing opportunities for employees to broaden their R&D knowledge and enable career progression and diversification,” Payne said.

Besides the demand for qualified professionals, there is also a need for infrastructure development to support the region’s scientists, entrepreneurs and life sciences companies. As Zarrilli explains, the Science Center’s goal is “to build an additional 3 million square feet of office, lab, residential and retail space over the next seven to 10 years, to further define the leading-edge community we envision at uCity Square. We will do our part to help make Philadelphia a leader in gene therapy and other areas of life sciences.”

As the growth in Philadelphia’s life sciences sector continues, it will impact different areas and draw more entrepreneurs and companies to the region. According to Zarrilli, the advances in the life sciences arena, especially in therapeutics, will lead to additional advancement in areas such as medical devices and digital health. “Life sciences is clearly the strongest area of innovation in Philadelphia, but it will spawn activity in other areas that are complementary.”  

To learn more about our interviewees, visit their websites:

University City Science Center: 


uCity Square: