Stephen Stitle, managing partner of the Indianapolis office of SmithAmundsen LLC, has been named chief operating officer over the entire Midwest regional law firm.
Credited with growing the Circle City’s office since he joined SmithAmundsen in 2015, Stitle as COO will help drive tactical planning, recruit talent and maintain client confidence for the entire operation. His primary goal, he said, is to look for profitable growth through lateral hires and firm acquisitions or mergers.
His appointment comes as some economic indicators are pointing to a recession coming in 2020 or 2021. However, Stitle is not worried, saying the firm is not overstaffed, does not have excess resources and is well-positioned to prosper.
“I’m very positive for the future,” the 73-year-old Stitle said. “We’re well positioned to grow no matter what the economy does.”
Stitle has extensive management and business experience, having served a chairman of PNC Bank, Indiana, president of National City Bank in Indiana and executive vice president of National City Corp. Also, he honed important skills during his a 25-year career in executive positions with Eli Lilly and Co.
“Steve’s knowledge of the firm and its clients, as well as his ability to uphold SmithAmundsen’s commitment to providing excellent client service, will be a valuable addition to our leadership team,” said the firm’s managing partner, Larry Schechtman. “His significant experience as managing partner of our Indiana operations offers a unique perspective on value and strategy.”
SmithAmundsen has more than 180 attorneys in offices around the Midwest including Chicago, St. Louis and Milwaukee. The firm handles the transactional, labor and employment and litigation needs of companies across the United States.
The Indianapolis office opened in 2013 when Connie Lindman and her team of intellectual property attorneys were looking for a new home after their firm, the former Stewart & Irwin, abruptly closed.
Lindman and five other IP attorneys made another lateral move, to Frost Brown Todd in December 2018.
Stitle said he is looking for the right growth opportunities for the entire firm. Plucking seasoned attorneys from other law firms and combining with other law offices are the principal ways SmithAmundsen is wanting to expand all its practice areas.
While making a lateral hire is easier, Stitle noted it is a slow way to grow. Combining with another firm can bring a substantial boost faster, but working through the details to bring two firms together can be challenging.
The law firm mergers and acquisitions market hit 47 combinations at mid-2019 which was a 10 percent dip from the mid-point of 2018, according to Altman Weil. Yet, Stitle believes there are still many combination possibilities in the market, and he said many firms and attorneys are still willing to at least have an initial conversation about joining forces.
The key, Stitle said, is ensuring any lawyers who come to SmithAmundsen will not only fit well into the firm’s culture but, more importantly, will also bring in more clients and grow the business. He is confident the firm will continue to attract attorneys.
“It’s a terrific culture,” Stitle said of SmithAmundsen, “and a good place to work.”