PORTSMOUTH — For the law firm McLane Middleton, celebrating 100 years means a lot of things.
It means celebrating internally its growth from its start in 1919 in Manchester by John McLane to five locations in New Hampshire and Massachusetts, including the office at 100 Arboretum Drive in the Newington portion of Pease International Tradeport.
It also means an outward expression of service to communities, according to Barry Needleman, named the firm’s managing director earlier this year.
“One of our values is that we encourage folks across the spectrum to get involved in their communities,” Needleman said.
Per the 100-year anniversary, McLane Middleton makes monthly donations to various community organizations based on the number 100.
In this area, for example, it donated 50 blankets to Cross Roads House in Portsmouth, which provides shelter and post-shelter services to individuals in the region, along with another 50 blankets to Lazarus House in Lawrence, Massachusetts. In November, it will donate 100 cases of bottled water to the Pease Greeters, an organization of individuals who greet planes carrying troops to and from their overseas deployment as they stop at the Portsmouth International Airport at Pease.
“Typically, the way we select organizations is that we might have some sort of connection to them,” said Needleman, noting one of the firm’s partners, Dennis Dillon, is on the board of directors at Cross Roads.
Needleman said it is a lucky happenstance that he was named managing director in the same year the firm celebrated its 100th anniversary.
He came to the job after what he called a “comprehensive internal process” and runs the firm in conjunction with CEO Cathleen Schmidt.
“The managing director’s job is to work with Cathy Schmidt, who is a non-lawyer, and together we run the business,” Needleman said. “I focus more on the legal side, the strategic issues. Cathy focuses more on the day-to-day business issues. But there are no hard lanes there; we work closely together every day to deal with all the big picture issues.”
According to a news release announcing Needleman being named as McLane Middleton’s managing director, he will continue his legal practice, which includes handling environmental and energy matters for regional and national clients. He does a substantial amount of energy facility siting work, primarily before the New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee, on numerous types of projects ranging from fossil and renewable generation, to electric and gas transmission.
He has experience litigating a variety of environmental cases in state and federal courts such as insurance and third-party cost recovery claims at former manufactured gas plants and the defense of state-wide MTBE contamination claims.
He also litigates administrative matters before state appellate councils regarding permit appeals under various environmental programs. He regularly represents clients in environmental matters involving permitting, compliance counseling and defense of administrative and judicial enforcement actions.
His duties as managing director include development of an updated strategic plan.
“We are coming to the end of our last strategic plan, and one of the first things I did early in the year was convene a strategic planning committee,” Needleman said. “And that committee has been hard at work to develop our next plan, which we will finalize by the end of the year.”
Needleman said an example of a goal in the plan was “maintaining and enhancing our culture. That’s something that’s very important to us. We think it’s something that truly differentiates us from other firms. We are a place that values our employees very much, we value a good work environment, and we focus very much on trying to do things that maintain and enhance things that go into our culture.”
McLane Middleton employs about 220 lawyers and staff spread across locations in Manchester, Concord and Newington as well as Woburn and Boston, Massachusetts.
It has been on the Seacoast since 1990, first on Congress Street in downtown Portsmouth. Under Charles DeGrandpre's leadership, the Portsmouth office grew, needing more space along the way at other locations downtown.
What started out as trust and estate work, according to Needleman, expanded to other disciplines.
“The office quickly grew so that we could accommodate the needs of other clients,” he said. “We have a pretty robust corporate practice in that office. We continue to have a robust trust and estates practice. Environmental, as well, is served out of that office, and litigation.”
Their offices have been located since 2016 at 100 Arboretum Drive, which also houses Long Term Care Partners and Wheelabrator Technologies. It has 12 employees, plus it serves as a location where McLane Middleton lawyers living in the area can drop in.
“It’s a place where we really feel like it gives us the ability, not only to serve the Seacoast clients really well, but also as a place where our Seacoast clients can easily get to,” Needleman said. “In addition, we have a lot of lawyers who live in and around the Seacoast area, who might not necessarily be based in Portsmouth, but having the opportunity to periodically work there.”
According to Needleman, the Newington office has room for growth, both in potentially more staff and especially in opportunities related to the law.
“Broadly speaking, we see opportunity in a lot of different areas. The way in which we grow these days varies,” he said. “While we might not necessarily be taking on more space or adding in a particular location, like Portsmouth, for example, we can still expand our footprint and expand the work we do in those communities in large part because of technology. The Seacoast is the fastest growing of the state, and we’re very tuned into that fact and looking to take advantage of whatever opportunities that might present.”
McLane Middleton was named the No. 1 law firm in New Hampshire by BusinessNH Magazine, which cited it as the largest, most successful firm in the state. Asked in the June issue about its success, Needleman said “The easy answer is the people. McLane Middleton’s success is due to the people that have been a part of our story. That includes the clients that trust us with their legal matters, the legal professionals that are preeminent in their areas of law and adjust to changes to the legal, business and regulatory conditions, and the business and administrative professionals that manage the firm and make McLane Middleton a top employer in the state.”