Not only did McGuireWoods grow the volume of deals it advised on in 2017, but it also innovated in two areas that have become increasingly important in the middle market: connecting independent sponsors with capital providers and bringing women deal professionals together.

“We had a great year in 2016 and an even better 2017. Nothing speaks louder than our work, which allows our reputation to grow. Investors know we are a legitimate shop that can handle the work. We also have an entrepreneurial spirit. We are always trying to put dealmakers together. We look for ways to add value. We may not always get the work immediately, but if we add value, then the work will come,” says Scott Westwood, chair of McGuireWoods’ M&A Practice.

To that end, McGuireWoods distinguished itself from competitors through two initiatives that allowed McGuireWoods to expand beyond being a legal services provider to being a key industry player. McGuireWoods was the first law firm to implement a cross-office, nationwide, initiative connecting independent sponsors with capital providers for their transactions. The connections forged through this initiative have already been responsible for numerous s significant transactions and laid the groundwork for more.

“Our one-of-a-kind independent sponsor initiative showcases how we add value beyond the traditional role of legal counsel. We work hard to build relationships by identifying opportunities to make smart introductions and understand the complex dynamics of these transactions,” says Jon Finger (pictured), a partner in the firm’s Dallas office.

Additionally, McGuireWoods spearheaded an initiative to promote the advancement of women, bringing together women investors from private equity firms and lenders, and facilitating relationship-building through a series of industry-focused events.

Led by partner Amber McGraw Walsh (pictured), chair of McGuireWoods’ healthcare practice, the program enables firm attorneys to expand existing client relationships and make new contacts that may produce new firm business and raise lawyers’ profiles.

“The need for greater diversity in private equity and lending is critical. We saw an opportunity to partner with clients, leverage the leadership and industry knowledge of the women in our networks, and provide a platform for raising their profiles and creating business opportunities. The response has been amazing,” says Walsh, a partner in the firm’s Chicago office.

In dealmaking, the firm advised on 175 deals, up from 141 the previous year. McGuireWoods advised Sheridan Capital Partners on more than a dozen bolt-on acquisitions for Smile Doctors, which grew to the largest orthodontic company in the U.S. In November 2015, Chicago-based lower middle-market private equity firm Sheridan Capital Partners made its initial investment in Smile Doctors. Since that investment, McGuireWoods represented Smile Doctors in close to 20 bolt-on acquisitions. In this time, Smile Doctors grew from 12 clinics to more than 90 clinics across 11 states. Through a recapitalization in 2017, Linden Capital joined as lead investor while Sheridan and management both rolled over their equity.

“We have 150 lawyers in 23 offices and we are all connected, working together across the nation and the globe. That’s why you have seen us grow and increase in the rankings,” says Westwood.

Read full coverage of all the award winners here.