ILNews

Mergers: Are we done yet?

Michael W. Hoskins
December 10, 2008
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Economic Impact

The Indiana legal community is seeing its most significant change in years, with the law firm merger mania hitting the Hoosier market in full force in 2008.

Indiana-based Locke Reynolds announced the first week of December that it will merge and take the name of
Cincinnati-Louisville regional firm Frost Brown Todd. That came two days after news that one of the state’s largest firms, Ice Miller, was formalizing a merger with Louisville firm Greenebaum Doll & McDonald.

If both materialize
by early January as expected, they’d join the May merger of Sommer Barnard with Taft Stettinius & Hollister to make this one of the most notable years for the Hoosier legal community.

Dimos“Indiana is a key target, and there are a number of deals being looked at right now,” said Tom Clay, a principal at legal consulting firm Altman Weil that tracks legal mergers and acquisitions. “This year hasn’t slowed down from the prior two years (nationally), and we could even see a record number by
the end of the year. Indiana is consistent with what’s going on in the national market right now.”

Clay said Indiana’s corporate culture is attractive to regional firms, particularly those in the Midwest and similar markets such as in Kentucky and Ohio. Hoosier firms and the ones in those areas are more compatible than larger firms in big cities, such as Chicago, he said.

Until this year, the last significant union the state saw was when Bingham Summers Welsh & Spilman and McHale Cook & Welch merged to form Bingham McHale in 2002.

“These things happen all the time and are always being discussed,” said Jim Dimos, a partner and management committee member with Locke Reynolds. “Ours won’t cause anything to happen in town, but it wouldn’t surprise me for others to happen.”

Considered the eighth largest firm in Indianapolis, Locke Reynolds had been working on its merger with Frost Brown Todd for more than a year, Dimos said. At a retreat in 2007, partners created a three-prong approach that involved exploring a merger with a smaller local firm, a firm similar in size, and a larger regional player. They hired national legal consulting firm Hildebrandt International to investigate potential partners; Frost Brown Todd landed at the top of the list.

Talk got more serious early this year, culminating with more discussion and an affirmative partner vote from both firms Dec. 3.

“They saw not being in Indianapolis as a hole in their strategy,” Dimos said.“They see
this as a vibrant city, and they’re excited about being here.”

Locke Reynolds has been a part of the Indianapolis legal community since 1917. Traditionally, the litigation firm has been most widely recognized for its representation of Ford Motor Co.

Effective Jan. 5, Locke Reynolds will take the name Frost Brown Todd and the 79 attorneys at its Indianapolis and Fort Wayne offices will join the 370 attorneys at the regional firm’s other locations. It has 10 offices in five states â?? Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee, and West Virginia. Currently, it has three attorneys listed as working in the New Albany, Ind., location. Post-merger, about 90 to 100 attorneys will be in Indiana, with anticipated growth primarily in the Indianapolis office.

Nelson D. Alexander, who is currently managing partner at Locke Reynolds, will serve as member-in-charge of Frost Brown Todd’s office in Indianapolis once the merger is finalized.

A goal is to become more of a regional and national player, Dimos said. The firm already markets itself as one of the Midwest’s largest firms between Atlanta and Chicago, and it will stay at that level and is expected to see more than $175 million in revenue during its first full year in 2009.

“We expect to be as competitive in this marketplace as anyone in this country,” Dimos said.

Dimos said that by merging, the litigation-strong Locke Reynolds is able to strengthen the transactional, non-litigation practice areas that Frost Brown Todd thrives in, such as corporate and commercial law.

Neither firm has been struggling financially, and that wasn’t a factor in the merger,
Dimos said. Both firms expect a smooth transition because they share a similar culture and personality, and no staff or lawyer layoffs are expected, he said.

However, Dimos said the Locke Reynolds’ medical malpractice group is being eliminated because the strategic vision for the combined firm doesn’t include that defense area. The three attorneys and partners were asked about transitioning their practices to another area, but they instead chose to move their practices outside the firm, Dimos said.

This is the second Indiana firm this year to merge with an out-of-state firm and strip the established local name; Indianapolis-based Sommer Barnard became Taft Stettinius & Hollister in May. The Indianapolis Business Journal also reported Dec. 2 that Indianapolis-based Ice Miller is expected to finalize a merger by Jan. 1 with Greenebaum Doll & McDonald, though both firms have declined to publicly comment about a merger.

Ice Miller’s Chief Managing Partner Byron Myers did say the firm’s strategic plan calls for constant evaluation of markets and conditions to determine what opportunities might work to better serve clients.

“At this point, we are unable to publicly comment on specific opportunities as it would be premature to do so,” he wrote in a statement.

Greenebaum’s director of business development, Mary Hendrix, has denied any discussions are ongoing with Ice Miller.

“We just don’t have anything to say. Like all firms, we’ve been talking over the past year but we haven’t made any commitments,” she said. “I’m not sure where that came from, but if and when we get to that
point, we’ll say something.”

Outside of the Sommer Barnard and Taft merger in May, other firms have come together this year. At the beginning of 2008, Bingham merged with the smaller litigation boutique firm McTurnan & Turner and brought in 10 attorneys. That came after a merger with Keifer & McGoff in 2005, adding a white collar and criminal defense practice.

“This economy is causing law firms to focus on short-term and long-term strategies, so it is likely there will be more consolidation,” said Tobin McClamrock, managing partner with Bingham McHale, noting his firm isn’t seriously entertaining any merger options at this point.

If no others come about in 2008, the three mergers will have taken two Indiana-based firms off the list of top 10 largest Hoosier-created firms.

While the economic conditions aren’t being cited as reasons for the unions, those involved agree with merger-and-acquisition experts who say these uncertain times could lead to more corporate marriages. Experts say firms are exploring mergers to remain viable and competitive, particularly to expand services to clients that are in multiple locations.

Mergers slowed in the third quarter compared to last year at the same time, but overall for 2008 the number of mergers throughout the country is outpacing 2007 by 58 to 44. Last year, a total of 73 mergers were announced or completed, according to figures compiled by Altman Weil. With three weeks left in 2008, the total number so far is 69 for this year.

IBJ reporter Scott Olson contributed to this story.

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  1. I have been on this program while on parole from 2011-2013. No person should be forced mentally to share private details of their personal life with total strangers. Also giving permission for a mental therapist to report to your parole agent that your not participating in group therapy because you don't have the financial mean to be in the group therapy. I was personally singled out and sent back three times for not having money and also sent back within the six month when you aren't to be sent according to state law. I will work to het this INSOMM's removed from this state. I also had twelve or thirteen parole agents with a fifteen month period. Thanks for your time.

  2. Our nation produces very few jurists of the caliber of Justice DOUGLAS and his peers these days. Here is that great civil libertarian, who recognized government as both a blessing and, when corrupted by ideological interests, a curse: "Once the investigator has only the conscience of government as a guide, the conscience can become ‘ravenous,’ as Cromwell, bent on destroying Thomas More, said in Bolt, A Man For All Seasons (1960), p. 120. The First Amendment mirrors many episodes where men, harried and harassed by government, sought refuge in their conscience, as these lines of Thomas More show: ‘MORE: And when we stand before God, and you are sent to Paradise for doing according to your conscience, *575 and I am damned for not doing according to mine, will you come with me, for fellowship? ‘CRANMER: So those of us whose names are there are damned, Sir Thomas? ‘MORE: I don't know, Your Grace. I have no window to look into another man's conscience. I condemn no one. ‘CRANMER: Then the matter is capable of question? ‘MORE: Certainly. ‘CRANMER: But that you owe obedience to your King is not capable of question. So weigh a doubt against a certainty—and sign. ‘MORE: Some men think the Earth is round, others think it flat; it is a matter capable of question. But if it is flat, will the King's command make it round? And if it is round, will the King's command flatten it? No, I will not sign.’ Id., pp. 132—133. DOUGLAS THEN WROTE: Where government is the Big Brother,11 privacy gives way to surveillance. **909 But our commitment is otherwise. *576 By the First Amendment we have staked our security on freedom to promote a multiplicity of ideas, to associate at will with kindred spirits, and to defy governmental intrusion into these precincts" Gibson v. Florida Legislative Investigation Comm., 372 U.S. 539, 574-76, 83 S. Ct. 889, 908-09, 9 L. Ed. 2d 929 (1963) Mr. Justice DOUGLAS, concurring. I write: Happy Memorial Day to all -- God please bless our fallen who lived and died to preserve constitutional governance in our wonderful series of Republics. And God open the eyes of those government officials who denounce the constitutions of these Republics by arbitrary actions arising out capricious motives.

  3. From back in the day before secularism got a stranglehold on Hoosier jurists comes this great excerpt via Indiana federal court judge Allan Sharp, dedicated to those many Indiana government attorneys (with whom I have dealt) who count the law as a mere tool, an optional tool that is not to be used when political correctness compels a more acceptable result than merely following the path that the law directs: ALLEN SHARP, District Judge. I. In a scene following a visit by Henry VIII to the home of Sir Thomas More, playwriter Robert Bolt puts the following words into the mouths of his characters: Margaret: Father, that man's bad. MORE: There is no law against that. ROPER: There is! God's law! MORE: Then God can arrest him. ROPER: Sophistication upon sophistication! MORE: No, sheer simplicity. The law, Roper, the law. I know what's legal not what's right. And I'll stick to what's legal. ROPER: Then you set man's law above God's! MORE: No, far below; but let me draw your attention to a fact I'm not God. The currents and eddies of right and wrong, which you find such plain sailing, I can't navigate. I'm no voyager. But in the thickets of law, oh, there I'm a forester. I doubt if there's a man alive who could follow me there, thank God... ALICE: (Exasperated, pointing after Rich) While you talk, he's gone! MORE: And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law! ROPER: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law! MORE: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil? ROPER: I'd cut down every law in England to do that! MORE: (Roused and excited) Oh? (Advances on Roper) And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you where would you hide, Roper, the laws being flat? (He leaves *1257 him) This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast man's laws, not God's and if you cut them down and you're just the man to do it d'you really think you would stand upright in the winds that would blow then? (Quietly) Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake. ROPER: I have long suspected this; this is the golden calf; the law's your god. MORE: (Wearily) Oh, Roper, you're a fool, God's my god... (Rather bitterly) But I find him rather too (Very bitterly) subtle... I don't know where he is nor what he wants. ROPER: My God wants service, to the end and unremitting; nothing else! MORE: (Dryly) Are you sure that's God! He sounds like Moloch. But indeed it may be God And whoever hunts for me, Roper, God or Devil, will find me hiding in the thickets of the law! And I'll hide my daughter with me! Not hoist her up the mainmast of your seagoing principles! They put about too nimbly! (Exit More. They all look after him). Pgs. 65-67, A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS A Play in Two Acts, Robert Bolt, Random House, New York, 1960. Linley E. Pearson, Atty. Gen. of Indiana, Indianapolis, for defendants. Childs v. Duckworth, 509 F. Supp. 1254, 1256 (N.D. Ind. 1981) aff'd, 705 F.2d 915 (7th Cir. 1983)

  4. "Meanwhile small- and mid-size firms are getting squeezed and likely will not survive unless they become a boutique firm." I've been a business attorney in small, and now mid-size firm for over 30 years, and for over 30 years legal consultants have been preaching this exact same mantra of impending doom for small and mid-sized firms -- verbatim. This claim apparently helps them gin up merger opportunities from smaller firms who become convinced that they need to become larger overnight. The claim that large corporations are interested in cost-saving and efficiency has likewise been preached for decades, and is likewise bunk. If large corporations had any real interest in saving money they wouldn't use large law firms whose rates are substantially higher than those of high-quality mid-sized firms.

  5. The family is the foundation of all human government. That is the Grand Design. Modern governments throw off this Design and make bureaucratic war against the family, as does Hollywood and cultural elitists such as third wave feminists. Since WWII we have been on a ship of fools that way, with both the elite and government and their social engineering hacks relentlessly attacking the very foundation of social order. And their success? See it in the streets of Fergusson, on the food stamp doles (mostly broken families)and in the above article. Reject the Grand Design for true social function, enter the Glorious State to manage social dysfunction. Our Brave New World will be a prison camp, and we will welcome it as the only way to manage given the anarchy without it.

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