Three Former In-House Counsel Join Gentry Locke as Partners
Three attorneys walk into a law firm…
It’s not the start of some joke. It’s the beginning of big news for Gentry Locke, which recently welcomed three attorneys as partners whose vast experience in government and the corporate world will help clients navigate issues where the public and private sectors meet.
Carlos L. Hopkins, the Virginia Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs under former Virginia governors Terry McAuliffe and Ralph Northam, and a legal counsel to McAuliffe; Noah P. Sullivan, also a former counsel to McAuliffe who previously worked in the Washington, D.C. office of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP; and John M. Scheib, former chief legal officer and an executive vice president of Norfolk Southern Corporation each joined Gentry Locke in recent months.
Bringing aboard such a trifecta of talent is like winning the lawyer lottery.
“Already there’s a buzz,” said Kathleen Lordan, Gentry Locke’s Business Development Support Manager, describing the impact of bringing Hopkins, Sullivan and Scheib on board.
“This shows that Gentry Locke works at a high level to be able to attract top-notch talent,” said Monica Monday, Gentry Locke’s managing partner. “We’re really pleased that these lawyers see Gentry Locke as a good place to build their practices.”
The hirings of Hopkins, Sullivan and Scheib add a wealth of experience to the firm’s impressive roster when it comes to helping clients steer through regulatory and corporate affairs that involve government, transportation, business and other legal issues.
“We came on around the same time but from totally different places when we joined,” said Sullivan, who moved to Gentry Locke’s Richmond office from Washington, D.C. “The unifying theme is what it says about Gentry Locke and the people who are here. How many firms would love to have in-house counsel from a major company come and help them build their law firm, or have a former cabinet secretary who has tons of different experiences across being a lawyer and running big organizations come in and help solve government-facing problems? Every law firm wants that.”
“We all came to Gentry Locke and that’s because the people are great. And the trajectory of the firm spanning across Virginia to serve the Commonwealth and the legal needs here is the unifying thing. The firm has a ton of potential that we can contribute to and be part of the overall strategy of serving clients across the state,” said Sullivan.
All three attorneys have worked at the nexus of government and business, experience that came at the highest levels of public and private partnerships.
Hopkins and Sullivan served the Commonwealth during the McAuliffe administration, helping streamline regulatory rules and smooth procedures between business, government and the private sectors.
Hopkins, a former deputy commonwealth’s attorney and colonel and staff judge advocate of the 29th Infantry Division of the Virginia National Guard, was appointed by McAuliffe in 2017 as Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs, a massive job that required oversight of Virginia veterans’ issues that included suicide prevention, healthcare, financial wellbeing and working with military communities across Virginia.
Sullivan served two stints over nine years as a litigator with Gibson Dunn, with his stint in state government in between, giving him a depth of experience that stretches from governmental to business affairs.
Scheib, who in addition to being a former Norfolk Southern executive once sat on the boards of directors for Conrail and the United States Chamber of Commerce, said that his work in the “C suite” of a Fortune 500 Company offers a unique view on how attorneys can better serve clients. Scheib once led a team of lawyers that fought off a corporate takeover, a fight that combined law, political acumen and solid public relations.
All three men say that their work as in-house counsel provides distinct perspective about clients’ views and expectations from a law firm.
“For me, it’s always been about public service, whether it’s my time in the military, time in local government or in state government,” said Hopkins, who works in Richmond. “All the work I’ve done is centered around that. At this stage of my career, having done what I’ve done in the public sphere, I still wanted to maintain that connection to public service and help people find solutions.”
“You have to bring multifaceted strategies to the table to protect a company’s interest,” said Scheib, who is based in Hampton Roads.
All told, the attorneys’ experience in working with clients as in-house counsel will help make them better lawyers for clients of Gentry Locke.
“Sometimes, at a big law firm you only interact with lawyers, but with an in-house position you might be the only person with a law degree,” Sullivan said. “You can gain a ton of perspective from what I call ‘normal’ people and how they think. You learn what their priorities are. You become solutions-oriented and not siloed in your thinking. You learn to think creatively and find solutions for the client.”
Hopkins gained that perspective before he worked in state government, while serving as deputy city attorney for the City of Richmond, where outdated policies had made it difficult for the city to collect property taxes from owners of dilapidated buildings. Hopkins put together a cross-departmental team that worked with bureaucratic, private, and economic development interests to improve collection procedures, making sure all voices were heard.
“We got folks talking who hadn’t talked to each other before,” Hopkins said.
Hopkins’ expertise will serve him well as a member of the Gentry Locke Consulting team, advocating for clients with government affairs and strategic communications needs, especially when it comes to dealing with Virginia governmental leaders and staff.
“He’ll be a force of nature in that environment,” Monday said.
The trio’s experience can benefit other Gentry Locke attorneys, Scheib said.
“It’s an enhancement to the firm’s ability to communicate with clients by letting other [firm] members know how clients think,” Scheib said. “That shows me that this is a firm that is self-aware and wants to engage clients in a different way.”
The three attorneys are also multi-faceted in ways outside of law practice. Hopkins is musically gifted, which includes talents for playing trumpet, cornet and flugelhorn and being part of what he calls a vibrant salsa-dancing community in Richmond. He loves to scuba dive, and he is an avid golfer whose favorite course is Ballybunion Golf Club in County Kerry along the southwest coast of Ireland.
Both he and Scheib are big fans of Pittsburgh sports teams — they love the football Steelers (Hopkins said that he bleeds team colors black and gold), and Scheib has collected 18 bobbleheads of Pirates baseball players. Scheib is an outdoorsman, having spent more than 380 nights outside in tents. He, his son and daughter are all Eagle Scouts.
Sullivan’s arrival at Gentry Locke comes in the midst of a slew of big life changes in recent months. In addition to the career change, he and his wife bought a new house, she gave birth to a baby and even welcomed a new puppy to the family.
Now, Hopkins, Scheib and Sullivan are part of the Gentry Locke family.
“We have such a diversity of experiences,” Hopkins said. “Having been lead counsel within organizations, and now working here together, that’s an incredible benefit to clients. We’ve been in the halls of power. We have extensive networks. There’s not much that we will see or face that we don’t have some background in already. It’s great to have us here under one roof.”