Former Governor Ronnie Musgrove published this story on Huffington Post yesterday accusing the IHL Board of firing University of Mississippi Chancellor Dan Jones because he doesn’t like the Butler Snow law firm. Really. I did not see this one coming.

From the article:

Since Jones’ hiring, [Gov. Haley] Barbour has taken two highly lucrative positions. Without missing a beat, he returned to his pre-gubernatorial position as head of Washington, DC lobbying firm, the BGR Group. He also took an equity position at the law firm, Butler Snow, in Ridgeland, MS – a suburb of the state’s capitol of Jackson.

When Barbour left office, Butler Snow was the third largest law firm in town. Since then, Butler Snow has taken hundreds of millions of dollars in state contracts. Now they are one of the largest firms in the nation…..

Butler Snow could be considered the ‘for-profit’ arm of our state government…..

Hundreds of millions – if not billions – flow through their hallowed halls in legal fees for health care contracts, research grants, bond issuances, buildings contracting, the list is too long to count. Even in a poor state that chronically underfunds education, we’re talking a mountain of untapped billable hours for a firm like Butler Snow.

Dan Jones was standing at the gates of a gold mine, but he wasn’t a Butler Snow man. He wasn’t a Barbour or Bryant man.

My Take:

If nothing else, this is a great article for Butler Snow. If the firm is perceived to be that powerful, this will drive even more legal work their way.

But I don’t buy the conspiracy theory. It sounds more like sour grapes. It would be kind of like Burger King telling you why McDonald’s sucks. Consider the source.

Start out with the fact that Gov. Musgrove is also now a private practice attorney who is a competitor of Butler Snow. Assuming that everything he says is true, would he do anything different if this was a Democratic controlled state and he had the influence that Barbour has? Hasn’t Gov. Musgrove used his connections and influence to get business?

That’s what big law firms do. They hire people with influence who they hope will bring business to the firm. Not only is that how things work, there is nothing wrong with it.

Musgrove didn’t have a problem taking a job with Copeland Cook. And I bet he used his contacts and influence to bring in business for that firm and his current firm.

Also, there is too much exaggeration here. Yes Butler Snow has transitioned itself from a Mississippi law firm to one with a national presence. With over 300 attorneys, it’s a big firm. But you’d have to have a very loose definition to call it one of the largest firms in the nation. Maybe it will get there. Hell, I hope so. It would be great for the Jackson area.

But right now, Butler Snow is a growing regional firm with a national presence. The firm has done an amazing job of not only weathering the Mississippi legal industry depression, but thriving while other firms struggle to remain alive.

I’m not sure how much credit Haley Barbour should get for that. It seems to me that the wheels were already in motion before Barbour arrived. I’d give most of the credit to Don Clark and the rest of the firm’s leadership, along with “female powerbrokerChristy Jones building a national litigation practice.

A few weeks ago, someone emailed me that a Butler Snow lawyer had lost a big trial in Philadelphia. My response was “that’s impressive.” “That they lost?” “No, because it’s big time for Mississippi lawyers to be trying cases in the Northeast.” There is no shame in losing a trial. It’s impressive that they were in that game.

I don’t know how much legal work Butler Snow gets from government related work. But I know enough about law firm economics to know that its not billions or hundreds of millions of dollars. If Butler Snow is getting billions of dollars in legal fees through State contracts–and it’s not–why would it need to get Dan Jones fired? Wouldn’t this argument make more sense if Butler Snow was getting no work from the State?

Not to mention the fact that IHL Board Member Alan Perry is an attorney who has always worked for big law firms that compete with Butler Snow. Why in the world would he want to fire Jones just to help one of his firm’s biggest competitors?

I agree that the Jones firing wreaks of politics. But it’s a political appointment. So that’s going to happen.

I don’t have an opinion yet on the Jones firing. Except for the Haley Barbour – Butler Snow angle. I’m not buying that one.