Hidde, Werner, Ruiz: FBT, AlvaradoSmith combination expands platform, DEI focus

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Frost Brown Todd is starting out 2023 on a high note with a recent merger with California-based AlvaradoSmith. Effective the first of the year, it brings two strong, regional law firms into one national firm with a coast-to-coast footprint. Both firms share a commitment to excellence and community investment and a focus on diversity, equity and inclusion.

Like any major business decision, the merger took time and consideration of how it would benefit our work in Indianapolis. The 23 attorneys joining Frost Brown Todd strengthen the services needed for the industries that help Indianapolis thrive, including labor and employment, real estate, environmental, data privacy, government services, and mobility and infrastructure. Both firms determined that to reach the next level of client service, we needed a wider geographic reach, additional talent and collaborative DEI efforts.

New opportunities

AlvaradoSmith has decades of experience in California, including extensive relationships and strong local roots in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Orange County. Given the economic and regulatory significance of the California market, the merger will provide numerous opportunities. There is a strong link between several of our major clients in Indianapolis and California, specifically when it comes to health care, transportation, manufacturing and real estate. Our clients need legal advisers who can be their counsel here in Indianapolis and provide those same services in other states where they operate.

By joining forces with AlvaradoSmith, the value to clients also goes beyond California. AlvaradoSmith has a strong international practice, especially when it comes to Latin America. This is important in the current environment of manufacturers bringing supply chains back to North America in response to the pandemic and geopolitical challenges. The experience their attorneys bring working with companies in those regions will be a great benefit to our Indiana businesses that operate internationally.

DEI matters

This merger is more than just an increased value in services. AlvaradoSmith, founded more than 30 years ago, is a minority-owned law firm. Frost Brown Todd has made inclusion, diversity, equity and belonging a priority for the past two decades, well before many other AmLaw 200 firms. FBT moved into the next generation of DEI by bringing on our new chief diversity officer, Chris Johnson, in 2022, who comes from the corporate world. He has already laid the groundwork to take our DEI efforts to the next level, and now he will have the support and perspective of our new attorneys from AlvaradoSmith, including Ruben Smith, partner-in-charge in Orange County, who is going to co-chair our Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Belonging Committee.

Coast-to-coast reach

Indianapolis-based businesses and attorneys have already expressed their attraction to the vision for a national platform. That is why Frost Brown Todd continues to grow. Our sole purpose is to meet the needs of our clients, our attorneys and all our employees. We believe the best way to do that is combining with valuable and quality firms like AlvaradoSmith that will help us gain that coast-to-coast reach while continuing our mission of providing big-law-level services at rates that meet the needs of Indiana’s businesses.

Beyond state lines

AlvaradoSmith’s California-focused platform meant that we often had to refer its larger national clients to law firms in other states. This was especially the case with respect to labor and employment issues, which are a ubiquitous concern for every business. Combining with Frost Brown Todd gives AlvaradoSmith the bandwidth to keep its California clients’ needs in-house in Indiana and many other states. Looking in the other direction, Frost Brown Todd’s deep traditional labor law and ERISA practices in Indianapolis give AlvaradoSmith much-needed additional expertise it can leverage for its California-based clients. The end result is a combined firm with a broad spectrum of experience and capabilities across the country. Affordable housing continues to be a challenge in California, especially Southern California, but one of AlvaradoSmith’s affordable housing developer clients has established a business model that successfully tapped into the private capital markets rather than solely relying on federal low-income housing tax credits and other subsidies to finance the construction of their apartment projects. With the help of thought leaders at Frost Brown Todd, this business model could be replicated in Indiana and other states.

Our combined firm will have more than 575 attorneys in 16 offices across eight states and Washington, D.C. With an expanded footprint, we will continue to make a difference for our lawyers and clients, their families and our communities.•


Kandi Hidde is Frost Brown Todd’s Indianapolis partner-in-charge, Jonathan M. Werner is a partner in Frost Brown Todd AlvaradoSmith’s Santa Ana, California, office, and Jerry J. Ruiz is a partner in the Los Angeles office. Opinions expressed are those of the authors.

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