Denver, Colorado.
Denver, Colorado. (Photo: f11photo/Shutterstock.com)

Kansas City-based Spencer Fane will combine this week with Denver’s 30-lawyer Berenbaum Weinshienk, expanding the firm’s roster of full-time lawyers to more than 190.

The move also brings Spencer Fane chairman Pat Whalen a big step closer to his goal of shifting the firm’s center of gravity toward Denver. In a sign of the Mile High City’s hot legal market, Whalen said Colorado could become the firm’s largest market by head count within two years.

The addition of Berenbaum Weinshienk, effective Thursday, will more than double Spencer Fane’s Colorado presence to 55 lawyers. The firm now lists nearly 70 lawyers in Kansas City, Missouri, with another 20 in nearby Overland Park, Kansas.

While Whalen will be competing with an influx of Am Law 200 firms into Colorado in recent years, he said his firm expects to attract clients with rates as much as 25 percent lower than larger firms, and with its higher partner-to-associate ratios.

“We think our model with our rate structure and a leaner leverage model resonates with the Colorado market,” Whalen said. “We don’t think companies in Colorado are prepared to pay the rates that clients can pay on the coasts.”

The firm ranked No. 248 in the NLJ 500 for 2016 with 153 attorneys, up 28 percent from the year before. It reported 10.8 percent growth in revenue and 10.4 percent growth in income for 2015.

Spencer Fane first entered the Denver market in 2012 by adding more than 20 lawyers from a firm known as Grimshaw & Harring. Whalen said the office’s busiest practices include real estate and financial services. In addition to a healthy real estate practice, he said the Berenbaum firm will add employee benefits skills to the firm’s Denver offering.

Spencer Fane and Berenbaum Weinshienk have been in talks for about a year, Whalen said, with groups of lawyers from both firms meeting to discuss their clients and practices.

“The overall Colorado growth story is a big driver of our desire to make the Colorado market if not the largest presence for Spencer Fane in the next couple years certainly among the top two,” Whalen said. “If you just look at the growth story there, you want that to be a big part of your firm, if you’re a firm like Spencer Fane.”

There are 43 Am Law 200 firms with a Denver office, according to ALM data. Those offices average 36 lawyers.

Polsinelli, another firm that got its start in Kansas City, opened an office in Denver in 1998 and now lists 76 attorneys there. The firm is the anchor tenant of a new 22-story office tower that will be topped with Polsinelli signage. Polsinelli has added six lateral partners in Denver over the past year, the most of any firm according to ALM data.

Since 2014, Armstrong Teasdale (now 17 lawyers), Haynes and Boone (14), Holland & Knight (13) and Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr (12) have each opened offices in Denver.

Whalen said his firm has been in discussions with other groups of lateral hires to join the firm’s Colorado presence. He is not alone.

“The competition for lateral partner talent continues unabated,” Whalen said. “There’s no doubt about that, and I don’t see that diminishing at all.”

Contact Roy Strom at rstrom@alm.com. On Twitter: @RoyWStrom.Kansas City’s Spencer Fane Acquires 30-Lawyer Firm in Fast-Growing Denver

Kansas City-based Spencer Fane will combine this week with Denver’s 30-lawyer Berenbaum Weinshienk , expanding the firm’s roster of full-time lawyers to more than 190.

The move also brings Spencer Fane chairman Pat Whalen a big step closer to his goal of shifting the firm’s center of gravity toward Denver. In a sign of the Mile High City’s hot legal market, Whalen said Colorado could become the firm’s largest market by head count within two years.

The addition of Berenbaum Weinshienk , effective Thursday, will more than double Spencer Fane ‘s Colorado presence to 55 lawyers. The firm now lists nearly 70 lawyers in Kansas City, Missouri, with another 20 in nearby Overland Park, Kansas.

While Whalen will be competing with an influx of Am Law 200 firms into Colorado in recent years, he said his firm expects to attract clients with rates as much as 25 percent lower than larger firms, and with its higher partner-to-associate ratios.

“We think our model with our rate structure and a leaner leverage model resonates with the Colorado market,” Whalen said. “We don’t think companies in Colorado are prepared to pay the rates that clients can pay on the coasts.”

The firm ranked No. 248 in the NLJ 500 for 2016 with 153 attorneys, up 28 percent from the year before. It reported 10.8 percent growth in revenue and 10.4 percent growth in income for 2015.

Spencer Fane first entered the Denver market in 2012 by adding more than 20 lawyers from a firm known as Grimshaw & Harring. Whalen said the office’s busiest practices include real estate and financial services. In addition to a healthy real estate practice, he said the Berenbaum firm will add employee benefits skills to the firm’s Denver offering.

Spencer Fane and Berenbaum Weinshienk have been in talks for about a year, Whalen said, with groups of lawyers from both firms meeting to discuss their clients and practices.

“The overall Colorado growth story is a big driver of our desire to make the Colorado market if not the largest presence for Spencer Fane in the next couple years certainly among the top two,” Whalen said. “If you just look at the growth story there, you want that to be a big part of your firm, if you’re a firm like Spencer Fane .”

There are 43 Am Law 200 firms with a Denver office, according to ALM data. Those offices average 36 lawyers.

Polsinelli , another firm that got its start in Kansas City, opened an office in Denver in 1998 and now lists 76 attorneys there. The firm is the anchor tenant of a new 22-story office tower that will be topped with Polsinelli signage. Polsinelli has added six lateral partners in Denver over the past year, the most of any firm according to ALM data.

Since 2014, Armstrong Teasdale (now 17 lawyers), Haynes and Boone (14), Holland & Knight (13) and Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr (12) have each opened offices in Denver.

Whalen said his firm has been in discussions with other groups of lateral hires to join the firm’s Colorado presence. He is not alone.

“The competition for lateral partner talent continues unabated,” Whalen said. “There’s no doubt about that, and I don’t see that diminishing at all.”

Contact Roy Strom at rstrom@alm.com. On Twitter: @RoyWStrom.Kansas City’s Spencer Fane Acquires 30-Lawyer Firm in Fast-Growing Denver