Akin Gump’s New Retail Industry Initiative Profiled in Legal, Business Media

In its article “New Akin Gump Group Rallies Around Changing Retail Industry,” The American Lawyer spoke with Akin Gump partners Meredith Slawe and Kathryn Deal for a Q&A on the firm’s decision to launch a firmwide initiative focused on the legal and business needs of companies in the retail industry. (Click here to learn more.)

Among the questions Slawe and Deal discussed:

-Why did the firm form this group?

  • Slawe: “When we were considering Akin we identified the breadth and depth of [its] retail services capabilities. … One of our thoughts coming in the door was we could harness all of this experience. … All we did is put some structure behind it and think outside the box.”

-What are some of the changes and challenges you’re currently seeing in the retail industry?

  • Slawe: “A few years ago there was a lot of talk in the industry that physical retail was a thing of the past and you had to focus strictly on your e-commerce platform. That’s no longer common thinking … to be competitive in the retail space you have to be good at both. … Things are happening every single day. There’s turnover, there are stores closing, there are exciting launches. It’s a challenging time without question, but it’s incredibly exciting.”

-What’s the benefit of honing in on a challenged industry, like retail?

  • Deal: “One of the benefits of taking this industry approach with a cross-practice and interdisciplinary group is you really start to understand your retail clients. You understand the pressures they’re under, not just from a legal perspective, but the business environment in which they’re operating. By immersing yourself in the world they live in, and the issues they have to grapple with … you really are better able to partner with them, understand them and really provide them with practical, useful and business-focused advice.”

-On the flip side, do you expect to have to pivot the makeup of this group down the road?

  • Slawe: “In our view I think it’s the more the merrier. There are people who practice almost exclusively in the retail space and people … who practice across industries. Our view is if you have an energy to learn, if you have an interest in the industry … we can have 200 or all 900 lawyers at Akin Gump in the retail initiative if there’s that interest.”

Click here to read the full article.

Law360 also featured the new initiative in the article “Akin Gump Initiative Will Watch For Retail Trends, Risks,” in which Deal stated that lawyers in the group have formed more than two dozen subject-area teams examining “emerging risks” in the industry.

As Slawe noted, “It’s valuable being an ear to the ground for our clients. We see firsthand the technological issues they may not know about. We can give them a sense of what exciting opportunities lie ahead, and what risks.”

In the Women’s Wear Daily article “Akin Gump Law Firm Adding In-house Retail Group,” Deal spoke of how the group’s plans to attend industry conferences will benefit clients, saying that “by immersing ourselves in these dynamic opportunities and pressures that are facing retailers, we can better partner with our retail clients to anticipate and mitigate areas of risks.”