Players in The Process are abuzz over a game-changing move in the Tallahassee influence industry: The entire Tallahassee office staff of the Jones Walker law firm is leaving to join the Dean Mead law firm, according to several people familiar with the deal.
Jones Walker will continue to have a presence in the capital through a “strategic partnership” agreement with Dean Mead, the details of which were not immediately available. The brain drain, however, goes “down to even the last administrative staffer,” one person said.
The move comes six years after Jones Walker, an 82-year-old firm founded in New Orleans, expanded its footprint to Tallahassee.
It started here with Marc Dunbar, a top gaming lobbyist-lawyer and Citizens Property Insurance board member; lobbyist and fundraiser Chris Moya; as well as gaming attorney Dan Russell and lobbyist Emily Duda Buckley.
A high-profile acquisition came later with the addition of Jenn Ungru, a health care policy and elections guru who most recently led the Election Day and recount operation for current Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis. She also was chief of staff to now-former Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) Secretary Liz Dudek.
Dean Mead was started by eight lawyers in Orlando in 1980, its website explains.
The move also will be a father-and-son professional reunion: Marc Dunbar is the son of Dean Mead shareholder Pete Dunbar, a five-term House member and later General Counsel and Director of Legislative Affairs to Gov. Bob Martinez, among other state positions.
That gives a hint, however, into the value of the deal for Dean Mead: Acquiring a team that has familiarity with and access to the DeSantis administration.
Besides Ungru, Moya became one of DeSantis’ top early fundraisers and landed a seat on the Inaugural Committee. Dunbar was counsel to the DeSantis recount monitoring effort.
Sources said Dean Mead also represents agricultural and land-owning interests in the state previously affiliated with former Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, who lost the GOP primary election for Governor to DeSantis last year. And the firm also represents the Publix supermarket chain, another Putnam connection.
The deal is expected to be officially announced this week, as early as Tuesday morning.