Sommer Barnard merging with Ohio firm

Scott Olson
January 1, 2008
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The 64 partners of Sommer Barnard unanimously voted today to approve the firm's merger with Cincinnati-based Taft Stettinius & Hollister.

The vote means Taft Stettinius & Hollister will absorb Sommer Barnard on May 1, meaning Indianapolis will lose one of its largest law firms.

Sommer Barnard was founded in 1969 and has 103 lawyers, making it the seventh-largest in the city, according to Indianapolis Business Journal statistics.

Taft Stettinius, whose roots date to 1885, has 200 lawyers in Cincinnati and additional Ohio offices in Cleveland, Columbus and Dayton. It has locations in Covington, Ky., and Phoenix, as well.

The merger of Sommer Barnard & Taft Stettinius continues an industry-wide trend in which regional and national firms are expanding to serve clients with multiple locations.

Talk of a merger involving Sommer Barnard had swirled for months, fueled by the share of ups and downs it has experienced in the past several years.

The firm acquired the Ancel & Dunlap bankruptcy practice in 2001 and a year later doubled its office space by moving from Chase Tower to One Indiana Square. It merged with the practice of prominent Washington, D.C., trial lawyer and native Hoosier Nels Ackerson the same year to become Sommer Barnard Ackerson Attorneys.

But roughly 12 months later, the marriage began to crack. By the time Ackerson arrived, the corporate defense side of the business had become as large as the plaintiff work. Ackerson's arrival and the conflict of interest it created with the growing defense practice was greater than anticipated, partners said at the time. The relationship ultimately dissolved in July 2004.

The following year, four partners were among six lawyers who jumped ship from Sommer Barnard to Bingham McHale. Among those who left was John Gregg, a former Democratic speaker of the Indiana House of Representatives.

And in 2007, Ginovus, the economic development consulting arm of Sommer Barnard, was forced to retrench after losing most of its professional staff to Bingham McHale, which had launched its own economic development consulting practice.

Recently, Sommer Barnard and Taft Stettinius had worked together on at least one occasion. Lawyers for both firms jointly filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of the Virginia-based Center for Equal Opportunity and Project 21 supporting Indiana's voter ID law. Justices ruled in favor of the state yesterday.

Sommer Barnard chief operating officer Debra Marple left early this month.

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  1. This is ridiculous. Most JDs not practicing law don't know squat to justify calling themselves a lawyer. Maybe they should try visiting the inside of a courtroom before they go around calling themselves lawyers. This kind of promotional BS just increases the volume of people with JDs that are underqualified thereby dragging all the rest of us down likewise.

  2. I think it is safe to say that those Hoosier's with the most confidence in the Indiana judicial system are those Hoosier's who have never had the displeasure of dealing with the Hoosier court system.

  3. I have an open CHINS case I failed a urine screen I have since got clean completed IOP classes now in after care passed home inspection my x sister in law has my children I still don't even have unsupervised when I have been clean for over 4 months my x sister wants to keep the lids for good n has my case working with her I just discovered n have proof that at one of my hearing dcs case worker stated in court to the judge that a screen was dirty which caused me not to have unsupervised this was at the beginning two weeks after my initial screen I thought the weed could have still been in my system was upset because they were suppose to check levels n see if it was going down since this was only a few weeks after initial instead they said dirty I recently requested all of my screens from redwood because I take prescriptions that will show up n I was having my doctor look at levels to verify that matched what I was prescripted because dcs case worker accused me of abuseing when I got my screens I found out that screen I took that dcs case worker stated in court to judge that caused me to not get granted unsupervised was actually negative what can I do about this this is a serious issue saying a parent failed a screen in court to judge when they didn't please advise

  4. I have a degree at law, recent MS in regulatory studies. Licensed in KS, admitted b4 S& 7th circuit, but not to Indiana bar due to political correctness. Blacklisted, nearly unemployable due to hostile state action. Big Idea: Headwinds can overcome, esp for those not within the contours of the bell curve, the Lego Movie happiness set forth above. That said, even without the blacklisting for holding ideas unacceptable to the Glorious State, I think the idea presented above that a law degree open many vistas other than being a galley slave to elitist lawyers is pretty much laughable. (Did the law professors of Indiana pay for this to be published?)

  5. Joe, you might want to do some reading on the fate of Hoosier whistleblowers before you get your expectations raised up.