Wanger Jones Helsley will hire 13 employees from Walter Wilhelm Law Group. Photo by Edward Smith.
Legal staff at Fresno-based Walter Wilhelm Law Group won’t have to go far when they join Wanger Jones Helsley — and they’ll be bringing along decades of commercial bankruptcy experience.
The move across The Tower business center parking lot on July 1 will bring the Fresno law firm Wanger Jones Helsley staff to 28 attorneys.
Wanger Jones Helsley is bringing Riley Walter on as a shareholder and Deborah Boyett as an associate. Michael Wilhelm and Kathleen DeVaney will serve as “of council.”
“We’re pretty selective on what we do and how we do it,” said Tim Jones, president of Wanger Jones Helsley. “Frankly, we view Riley Walter and Mike Wilhelm as a couple of very successful people.”
Discussions about hiring the firm’s 13 employees began four months ago when those with Walter Wilhelm approached Wanger Jones Helsley about joining the firm, which focuses on commercial litigation.
The lease was up for Walter Wilhelm on the third floor of The Tower office building near River Park. The group began considering what to do about the future.
Business growth across the Valley, especially in Modesto, Fresno and Visalia, brought numerous high-profile businesses needing legal services.
Business owners have also begun to see that attorneys in the Central Valley are as capable as those in places like the Bay Area — for a fraction of the cost, Walter said.
And keeping up with demand has become more complicated.
“There’s only so much one person can do when you have a multiplicity of adverse parties,” he said.
Walter’s bankruptcy experience coupled with Wilhelm’s decades of commercial transactions fit well with the “high-end” commercial litigation done at Wanger Jones Helsley, Walter said.
At Wanger Jones Helsley, he’ll have more resources to attend to clients.
“For me, I’m looking forward to having backup and quite frankly, they’ve been able to attract and retain young talent and we have not,” Walter said. “We’re too small to attract someone.”
This year marks the 20th anniversary for Walter Wilhelm and the 25th anniversary for Wanger Jones Helsley.
Jones said the addition means furthering the firm’s presence in the bankruptcies and transactions portion of the business.
“It adds a dynamic to the firm that will service our clients more completely,” Jones said.
Some of Walter’s past clients in bankruptcy proceedings include Coalinga Regional Medical Center, the Tulare Regional Medical Center board and the developer of the controversial Running Horse project.
Looking toward the future, beyond the economy’s record expansion, Jones wants his firms to be better positioned to help clients “weather the storm” of any future economic contraction. The attorneys at Walter Wilhelm bring just that, he said.
“Riley, having been in the position of seeing the biggest bankruptcies this area has had, has got the ability to help people avoid that process,” Jones said. “That’s a business attribute that he brings to the table, something that’s going to be very helpful to our clients.”