Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough
|Headquarters||Columbia, South Carolina|
|No. of offices||25|
|No. of attorneys||More than 785 (2019)|
|Major practice areas||General practice including lobbying|
|Key people||James K. Lehman, Managing Partner|
|Founder||Patrick Henry Nelson II|
|Company type||Limited liability partnership|
Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP (commonly referred to simply as Nelson Mullins) is a U.S. law firm and lobby group based in Columbia, South Carolina. In 2019, the American Lawyer ranked the firm as the 69th largest law firm in the nation based on 2018 gross revenue. It is the largest law firm in South Carolina, according to a S.C. Lawyers Weekly Survey.
Nelson Mullins attorneys provide advice and counsel in litigation, corporate, economic development, securities, finance, intellectual property, government relations, regulatory, and other needs of clients ranging from private individuals to large businesses, including many publicly held companies. The Firm offers full legal services to clients including growth companies, expanding local businesses, and major international companies. The Firm represents national companies requiring assistance with specific regional or local legal matters. The Firm also represents international companies interested in locating facilities in the Southeast. Start-up assistance for entrepreneurial endeavors, complex multi-action litigation defense, and representation of underwriters and investment bankers are additional services provided by Nelson Mullins.
The Firm has more than 785+ attorneys and government relations professionals practicing from offices in California, Colorado, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and West Virginia.
The firm was founded by Patrick Henry Nelson II (1856-1914) of Camden and Columbia, S.C. Nelson was the Fifth Circuit Solicitor, President of the South Carolina Bar Association (1911-1912), and member of the South Carolina House of Representatives (1885-1887). His son, William Shannon Nelson (1881-1939) ran the firm after his father, as did William's son, Patrick Henry Nelson III (1910-1964).
Patrick Henry Nelson II became a key player in one of South Carolina’s most famous criminal trials, State v. Tillman. Nelson defended Lt. Gov. James Tillman for the murder of the editor of The State newspaper in Columbia.
The Firm remained relatively small, but began planning for growth in the 1970s with a goal of adding attorneys and diversifying its practices. The Firm jumped from 18 attorneys in 1978, to 93 in 1990, to 250 attorneys in 2001 in six offices located in Columbia, Greenville, Myrtle Beach, Charleston, Atlanta, and Charlotte.
In 1987, after two terms as South Carolina governor and serving as U.S. Secretary of Education, Richard W. Riley and his father and brother joined the Firm. The Firm name was changed to Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP.
In 2003, the Firm made a major expansion in North Carolina, leading to Nelson Mullins opening new offices in Raleigh and Winston-Salem.
By 2004, the Firm established an office in the nation’s Capital. What was a Southeastern firm began to make its move up the Eastern Seaboard. As new offices were being added, in 2004 the Firm got a fresh facelift when Nelson Mullins moved its Columbia operations to the Meridian Building on Main Street.
In 2005, the Firm reached a milestone with 350 attorneys. That same year, the Firm was recognized for its pro bono service with the John Minor Wisdom Public Service and Professionalism Award from the ABA Litigation Section.
The Firm’s East Coast presence took a leap forward in 2006 when the Boston Office opened at the historic Long Wharf location.
The Firm's growth also led to a building boom in 2006 and 2007, with newly constructed offices in Myrtle Beach and expanded space in Charlotte. Growth in Atlanta led to a move into a new office building at Atlantic Station.
By 2008, the Firm had grown to 400 attorneys in 10 offices. The Firm formed a wholly owned subsidiary—EducationCounsel—with nine education professionals. And the Firm’s commitment to diversity led to the development of a Diversity Strategic Plan.
In 2009, eighteen attorneys and government relations professionals joined the Firm in Boston and Washington, creating significant growth in the Northeast. Meanwhile, Ambassador David Wilkins and his team came home from Canada to join Nelson Mullins. During 2009, the firm added more offices, this time in Tallahassee and West Virginia.
In 2010, Lahive & Cockfield, a top-ranked Boston intellectual property law firm, combined its resources with the Firm, increasing the intellectual property team to more than 70 attorneys and technical specialists.
The Firm began 2011 with the addition of a new business unit, Encompass E-Discovery, which quickly became an industry leader. In 2012, the Firm went westward with the addition of the Nashville office. Then in 2013, Nelson Mullins opened its second Florida office, this one in Jacksonville. Nelson Mullins grew to 15 offices in 2015 with the addition of an office in New York City. Then in 2016, the year the Firm became AmLaw’s 103 largest law firm in the nation based on revenue, the Firm headed west with the opening of an office in Denver.
In 2017, Nelson Mullins entered the West Coast legal market with an office in Los Angeles. The Firm also debuted in the 100 largest law firms in the nation in 2017 based on gross revenues as ranked by The American Lawyer.
Nelson Mullins opened its 18th office in Baltimore, MD in February 2018.
On August 1, 2018, Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP and Broad and Cassel LLP combined into a super- regional law firm in Florida, known as Nelson Mullins Broad and Cassel. With the combination of both firms, there are more than 750 attorneys and professionals operating in 25 offices across 11 states and Washington, DC. The combined firm has a significant presence along the Eastern Seaboard, including over 620 attorneys and professionals in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina, with Atlanta continuing as the firm’s largest office with over 150 attorneys and professionals.
In 2018, the American Lawyer ranked the firm as the 89th largest law firm in the nation based on 2017 gross revenue.
In 2019, the American Lawyer ranked the firm as the 69th largest law firm in the nation based on 2018 gross revenue.
Nelson Mullins practice areas are banking and financial services; bankruptcy; communications and media; corporate and securities; cybersecurity and privacy; eDiscovery and information governance; education; employment and labor; energy; environmental law; estate planning; family law; government relations; health insurance; health care; insurance, international with emphasis on international trade; intellectual property; litigation; outsourcing; real estate; tax; technology; transportation; white collar defense and government investigations.
Notable lawyers and alumni
- Butler Derrick, former U.S. Representative for South Carolina's 3rd congressional district
- William C. Hubbard, former President of the American Bar Association (2014-2015) and member of the council of the American Law Institute.
- Philip Lader, former U.S. Ambassador to the Court of St.James's (1997-2001).
- Richard Riley, served as the United States Secretary of Education under President Bill Clinton (1993-2001) and the 111th Governor of South Carolina (1979-1987).
- Dennis Wicker, former Lieutenant Governor of North Carolina (1994-2001).
- David Wilkins, former U.S. Ambassador to Canada during the administration of President George W. Bush.
- Solomon L. Wisenberg, served as Deputy Independent Counsel in the Whitewater/Lewinsky Investigation and selected by Judge Kenneth Starr to conduct grand jury questioning of President Bill Clinton.
- George Wolfe (CPA), former employee of the United States Government, worked for the Coalition Provisional Authority in 2003-2004.
- Trey Gowdy, former federal prosecutor who served as the U.S. Representative for South Carolina's 4th congressional district from 2011 to 2019.
The Firm engages in complex pro bono litigation, policy and legislative advocacy, and provides individual representation to a diverse group of individuals and organizations whose mission is to serve people with limited means. Nelson Mullins lawyers handle pro bono matters covering issues such as civil rights, domestic violence, veterans assistance, special education, children and the law, legislative reforms and new court, and the representation of non-profit organizations. Since 1990, Nelson Mullins lawyers have provided over 622,450 hours of service. As often described by our late partner and advocate, Stephen G. Morrison, pro bono work helps all of us to remember the reason we have laws—to protect, to help, to guide, and to seek justice. The Firm embraces the pro bono culture that those who serve the law shall serve the poor and disadvantaged.
- North Carolina Bar Foundation honors firm with a 2017 Large Law Firm Award for pro bono efforts.
- State Bar of Georgia Access to Justice Committee and Pro Bono Resource Center recognize firm with a 2016 A Business Commitment Award.
- The Animal Legal Defense Fund awarded the firm a 2016 Advancement in Animal Law Pro Bono Achievement Award.
- Legal Services Corp. honors Nelson Mullins with a 2016 Pro Bono Service Award.
- Georgia Appleseed Center for Law & Justice honors the firm with a 2016 Good Apple Award.
- Safe Alliance bestows 2015 Commitment to Justice Award on the firm for participation in the Legal Representation Project.
- Pro Bono Partnership of Atlanta honors the firm with the 2013 Law Firm of the Year Award.
- In 2013, Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP received a Beacon of Justice Award for providing pro bono representation to those unable to afford representation.
- In 2005, the firm received the John Minor Wisdom Public Service and Professionalism Award from the Litigation Section of the American Bar Association, and the William B. Spann, Jr. Award from the State Bar of Georgia.
- In 1992, Nelson Mullins won the ABA’s Pro Bono Publico Award, given annually to law firms for extraordinary contributions in providing legal services to the poor and disadvantaged. Nelson Mullins became a charter member of the Pro Bono Challenge in 1993.