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Ohio law firm acquires Indianapolis firm

Scott Olson
March 17, 2010
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One of Indianapolis' oldest law practices has been absorbed by a Cleveland law firm.

Dann Pecar Newman & Kleiman became part of Benesch Friedlander Coplan & Aronoff March 1, and changed its name to Benesch/Dann Pecar.

The firm's new moniker will be used locally for a transitional period of up to 18 months before Dann Pecar ultimately is dropped altogether in favor of the Benesch name, said Jeff Abrams, Dann Pecar's former managing partner. Abrams is now a member of Benesch's executive committee, taking the title of partner-in-charge of the Indianapolis office.

Founded in 1911, Dann Pecar has 29 lawyers and is Indianapolis' 17th-largest law firm, according to statistics from the Indianapolis Business Journal, sister publication to Indiana Lawyer. Benesch was founded in 1938 and has 145 attorneys, 110 of whom are in Cleveland. It also has locations in Columbus, Ohio; Wilmington, Del.; White Plains, N.Y.; and Shanghai, China.

That range proved attractive to Dann Pecar, whose smaller size made it difficult to provide some legal services, Abrams said.

"We've had opportunities to obtain new clients and expand our work, but we didn't have the skill set," he said. "[Benesch has] a great amount of resources that we don't have."

Chief among them are Benesch's health care and intellectual property practices, neither of which are among Dann Pecar's strengths, Abrams said. Dann Pecar's real estate work, however, was attractive to Benesch.

Dann Pecar leaders had been searching for a merger partner for a few years and had discussions with a handful of other firms before coming to terms with Benesch.

Two of the four firms Dann Pecar negotiated with are based in Indianapolis, said Abrams, who declined to name them.

"For whatever reasons, the others didn't work," he said. "But this one definitely became more and more inviting."

Abrams acknowledged the past few years have been "a little challenging," but he maintained the firm is profitable.

Benesch's acquisition of Dann Pecar allows it to continue its growth plans, said Ira Kaplan, Benesch managing partner.

"Our strategic plan calls for growth in core practices, and Benesch and Dann Pecar match up very well in that regard," he said. "It also is important to us to expand our Midwest presence, which provides us with broader reach and depth to better serve our clients."

One year short of reaching its 100-year milestone, Dann Pecar becomes the third Indianapolis firm in recent years to be acquired by an out-of-state law firm.

In May 2008, Sommer Barnard became part of Cincinnati-based Taft Stettinius & Hollister. Sommer Barnard was founded in 1969 and had 103 lawyers, making it the seventh-largest in the city, according to IBJ statistics. Taft, whose roots date to 1885, has 200 lawyers in Cincinnati. Its other Ohio offices are in Cleveland, Columbus, and Dayton.

In December 2008, Locke Reynolds, Indianapolis' eighth-largest firm, announced its 79 attorneys would join forces with Cincinnati-based Frost Brown Todd's roster of 370 attorneys spread among nine locations in five states.

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