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Chaffe McCall L.L.P.
As the oldest continuously operating law firm in Louisiana, Chaffe McCall L.L.P. has been serving justice since 1826. Established by brothers and attorneys, Thomas and John Slidell, the firm has evolved over the course of nearly two centuries. While the organization’s name has changed and areas of practice have expanded, Chaffe McCall has long been dedicated to serving clients, the bar and the community with integrity. Now with offices in New Orleans, Baton Rouge and Lake Charles, Louisiana, as well as Houston, Texas, the firm is a reliable legal partner for clients throughout the Gulf Coast.
Over the years, Chaffe McCall has attracted a line of prestigious attorneys. John Olinde, managing partner, has been with the firm since 1983. Prior to his tenure at Chaffe McCall, Olinde served as law clerk to Justice Fred A. Blanche Jr. of the Louisiana Supreme Court. During his time with the firm, he has concentrated in various areas of law, starting out in business and adapting to take on litigation work, which is his current area of focus.
Olinde takes great pride in the dedication and diverse talent of his colleagues. “I have known the people here for so many years and they are a family to me,” he explains. “We have a very high retention rate of brilliant and hardworking legal professionals and staff. For example, my legal assistant has worked with us for over 30 years and our attorneys have also been with the firm for many years. We know each other very well and collegiality plays an essential role in contributing to the firm’s client service that we take pride in providing.”
When taking on new attorneys, Chaffe McCall looks for individuals who have the ability to communicate clearly with clients, but also have the ability to understand their business objectives and provide counsel that is unique to their needs. The team excels at offering ideas that other firms might not have thought of. While client service is a priority, teamwork is an important covenant of the firm’s culture and Chaffe McCall’s attorneys are known for their dedication and meeting clients’ legal needs timely and cost-effectively.
A different kind of law firm
What separates Chaffe McCall from other firms is that the team is committed to learning a client’s business and offering diverse services to meet those needs. The firm’s proficiency encompasses maritime law, commercial litigation, business transactional work, labor and employment law, civil litigation, white-collar criminal, trust and estate planning among other specialties. This array of focal points within the practice of law has attracted a range of high-profile clients over the years.
For example, the firm has been involved with maritime law for over a century, specifically oceangoing vessel work. “We work with many international shipping companies along the coast,” says Olinde. “In Louisiana, we are one of only a few firms that perform this type of work. The firm has also done railroad work for over 100 years, working for decades with many of the same clients. We also work with real estate developers in New Orleans with whom we have long-standing relationships. Our clientele in the institutional sector is diverse and we also work with the pharmaceutical and medical industry providing advice on defense litigation.”
While Chaffe McCall has taken on hundreds of challenging and rewarding cases over the years, some cases stand out more than others. For Olinde, one of the most rewarding cases of his career involved the question of whether or not there should be a random allotment of lawsuits in Louisiana. “We were seeking a determination as to whether it should go to just one judge or does it get randomly allotted among the judges in a court section,” he elaborates. “My client was Sprint and the question was whether one judge could be assigned to preside over class-action suits filed in a district court. Originally the district court said yes, but we were able to convince the Louisiana Supreme Court to overturn that decision. The Louisiana State Legislature later enacted a statute to preserve random allotment of lawsuits filed in Louisiana.”
Olinde and his colleagues have enjoyed long success throughout the region, although the firm’s growth has not come without obstacles. When Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, Chaffe McCall and many clients in New Orleans faced great adversity. “That was the biggest challenge for us,” says Olinde. “The disaster tested our resolve. Our main office in New Orleans was shut down because there was no infrastructure in place in the city.”
The firm has since rebuilt with the help of strong community support. Many of the clients impacted by the storm have bounced back as well and continue to count on Chaffe McCall for legal guidance and services. In the aftermath of the storm, operations moved to Baton Rouge and a number of remote locations in order to continue the practice.
Ten years later, the firm is flourishing in New Orleans and its other offices. Expansion is in the future both at home and across state lines. “In particular areas, we do see an expansion — for example, the health care market,” Olinde elaborates. “Here in New Orleans, there are numerous construction projects and facilities opening up and we see new opportunities in white-collar defense. Litigation is our bread and butter, and we are actively trying to attract attorneys who will contribute and do well with our practice group to service our clients’ needs. We recently hired the former U.S. Attorney from Houston, Don DeGabrielle, who has provided an unparalleled level of experience for our criminal law clients locally, nationally and internationally.”
The firm’s attorneys have been recognized locally and nationally time and again for their achievements, with accolades including listings in Chambers and Partners USA, U.S. News Best Lawyers, The American Lawyer and Super Lawyers.
This conferment serves only to reinforce Chaffe McCall L.L.P.’s reputation as a leader in the practice of law for clients along the U.S. Gulf Coast.