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Greenville Business Magazine

Gallivan White Boyd Law Firm Marks 75 Years in Greenville

Nov 13, 2023 11:29AM ● By Kevin Dietrich

By Kevin Dietrich

Much has changed in the Upstate since Greenville law firm Gallivan White Boyd opened its doors 75 years ago.

Back in 1948, when F. Dean Rainey Sr. founded the firm, Greenville was still the textile capital of the world, with thousands being employed in mills in the city. The city’s downtown was thick with department stores and other retail businesses and had not undergone revitalization. Fewer than 100,000 called the Greenville MSA home, less than one-fifth of today’s population.

As Greenville has changed and grown over the decades, Gallivan White Boyd has adapted and prospered. From a tiny firm with just a handful of employees, GWB today has nearly 70 lawyers and dozens of support staff spread across offices in Columbia, Charleston and Charlotte, along with its Greenville headquarters.

Gallivan White Boyd represents some of the largest companies in the nation, including transportation giants Norfolk Southern Railway and CSX Corp., and public utility Santee Cooper. It handles matters in more than 25 practice areas but is renowned for its litigation work. That’s no accident.

“The attorneys who were partners in the firm decided in the 1970s that we needed to focus on a specific area of law – and they chose litigation,” firm partner Daniel B. White said. “They wanted to be the best litigation firm in South Carolina, and it’s been our focus ever since.”

Added partner H. Mills Gallivan, “Litigation is sort of recession proof, so we have always been incredibly busy. If you have good lawyers they’re always going to be in demand.”

One of Gallivan White Boyd’s longtime clients is Santee Cooper. The firm serves as outside counsel to the public utility and has represented the 1,500-employee entity for eight years.

“GWB is filled with excellent, proven and experienced lawyers who not only provide excellent legal counsel but go above and beyond to really understand our business, our people and our goals,” said Rebecca Roser, associate general counsel for Santee Cooper. “They fully grasp our mission and help us consider strategy and options through that lens.”

Gallivan White Boyd handles mostly litigation for Santee Cooper but provides advice and counsel in other areas of law, as well.

Being able to turn to GWB for assistance on legal matters allows Santee Cooper to concentrate on other aspects of its operations, Roser added.

“They are able to jump on things quickly so we can focus on other business issues and feel at ease knowing these matters are being thoughtfully handled,” she said. 

Gallivan White Boyd has been involved in a number of significant cases over the years, including the 2005 Norfolk Southern train derailment in Graniteville, when two Norfolk Southern trains collided, resulting in nine deaths and more than 250 individuals being treated for exposure to chlorine gas. The resulting legal actions took years to litigate.

GWB also served as lead counsel for an international furniture manufacturer in the 2007 Sofa Super Store fire in Charleston that claimed the lives of nine firefighters.

The firm’s legal prowess hasn’t gone unnoticed. GWB attorneys have served in leadership roles in numerous organizations, including president of such entities as the International Association of Defense Counsel, the Federation of Defense and Corporate Counsel, the Defense Research Institute and the South Carolina Bar.

With a strong reputation, well-known clients and plenty of work, Gallivan White Boyd is able to snap up good attorneys when other firms may be unable to do so.

Partner Lindsay A. Joyner was completing a two-year stint as a staff attorney at the South Carolina Supreme Court just at the height of the Great Recession. She interviewed with several firms before meeting with Gallivan White Boyd lawyers.

“In a time when many firms were not really hiring, GWB was talking about growing and all of the matters I was going to be able to jump in on right away,” she said. “It felt like a promising place to start a career, and they were not joking. Very early in my career I was getting to take depositions, write briefs and maintain client relationships.”

Recently, the firm has put additional focus on providing needed services to its corporate clients.

“One of the things we’re working on is refining our client base for those companies which are looking for the very best representation,” Gallivan said.

The fact that GWB’s hourly rates are less than the rates that firms in Atlanta, Charlotte and Nashville charge is a strong selling point.

“A lot of the larger law firms in big cities have significant overhead, but that’s a problem we don’t have, and it gives us an advantage,” White said.

Looking ahead, White said the firm will continue to seek out excellent attorneys. It will also continue to nurture the team atmosphere that enables lawyers and staff to pull together and work toward common goals. 

“The partners in the firm are all committed to the firm,” he said. “That’s different than some firms where what you have is individual attorneys with individual practices working under the same roof.”

The comradery is nurtured many different ways, including supporting attorneys and staff who are involved in their respective communities. 

Over the years, the firm has been active in more than 120 community organizations and nonprofits. What that means is Gallivan White Boyd is able to make a far greater impact on Greenville (and other communities) than it could when starting out 75 years ago.

“All of our lawyers are committed to the community,” Gallivan said. “They’re involved with the state bar, with chambers of commerce, with nonprofits. We believe in giving back, whether it’s giving back to the profession or giving back to the community.”

Added White, “We do well when we do good, and we are committed to supporting our lawyers when they’re supporting their communities by joining professional and civic organizations.”