ILNews

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. Well, maybe it's because they are unelected, and, they have a tendency to strike down laws by elected officials from all over the country. When you have been taught that "Democracy" is something almost sacred, then, you will have a tendency to frown on such imperious conduct. Lawyers get acculturated in law school into thinking that this is the very essence of high minded government, but to people who are more heavily than King George ever did, they may not like it. Thanks for the information.

  2. I pd for a bankruptcy years ago with Mr Stiles and just this week received a garnishment from my pay! He never filed it even though he told me he would! Don't let this guy practice law ever again!!!

  3. Excellent initiative on the part of the AG. Thankfully someone takes action against predators taking advantage of people who have already been through the wringer. Well done!

  4. Conour will never turn these funds over to his defrauded clients. He tearfully told the court, and his daughters dutifully pledged in interviews, that his first priority is to repay every dime of the money he stole from his clients. Judge Young bought it, much to the chagrin of Conour’s victims. Why would Conour need the $2,262 anyway? Taxpayers are now supporting him, paying for his housing, utilities, food, healthcare, and clothing. If Conour puts the money anywhere but in the restitution fund, he’s proved, once again, what a con artist he continues to be and that he has never had any intention of repaying his clients. Judge Young will be proven wrong... again; Conour has no remorse and the Judge is one of the many conned.

  5. Pass Legislation to require guilty defendants to pay for the costs of lab work, etc as part of court costs...

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