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Pa. Firms Grow Denver Outposts
The Legal Intelligencer
The Denver legal market is set to take on more of a Pennsylvania flair in the coming weeks as two area firms make notable expansions into the Mile High City.
Fox Rothschild said it will significantly expand its nine-month-old Denver office through a merger with 16-lawyer Lottner Rubin Fishman Saul, set to go into effect July 1. And Ballard Spahr has announced that it has hired five commercial litigators, including two partners, for its office in Colorado's capital.
The merger will give Fox Rothschild's four-lawyer Denver office 10 new partners, five associates and one counsel whose practices include real estate, tax, corporate and litigation work. Ballard Spahr is adding five attorneys from Featherstone Petrie DeSisto, including name partner Andrew J. "Drew" Petrie, one other partner, an of counsel and two senior associates.
Fox Rothschild launched in Denver in September with three intellectual property and litigation attorneys from Bryan Cave. A fourth partner joined shortly thereafter. The initial launch was done to focus on Denver's burgeoning IP scene in light of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office's decision to open a regional office in the city.
But Fox Rothschild managing partner Mark Silow said the firm's goals for new offices include reaching a critical mass of between 20 to 25 lawyers and building those offices out to become full service. Since opening in Denver nine months ago, the firm has been actively recruiting. A headhunter put Fox Rothschild in touch with Lottner Rubin, Silow said.
The deal took between three to four months to complete and was relatively simple considering there was little to no overlap in terms of practice areas, staffing or when it came to conflict issues, Silow said. While he wouldn't disclose how much revenue Lottner Rubin would bring to Fox Rothschild, Silow said the two firms are very similar when it comes to revenue per lawyer and profitability metrics.
Lottner Rubin was established in 1931. The partners joining Fox Rothschild are Rick J. Rubin, Marshall H. Fishman, Richard J. Saul, Janet E. Perlstein, Patrick J. Casey, Christopher J. Dawes, Michael S. Friedman, Scott A. Ross, K. Harsha Krishnan and Spencer L. Sears. Alan B. Lottner is joining as counsel and Adam Gentile, J.P. Box, Dominic Rivers, Hilary B. Bloom and Joshua Greenberg are joining as associates.
When asked why Fox Rothschild was targeting Denver for expansion, Silow said it is one of the fastest-growing cities in the country. He said it has a "really good anchor" in energy and natural resources and the high-tech field. Having the patent office open there along with the University of Colorado were other advantages to the market, Silow said. He also noted the region has an educated workforce and high quality of life.
In terms of future growth in Denver, Silow said he would like the firm to get more involved with the area's energy and natural resources work. Bankruptcy, financial restructuring, additional IP attorneys and labor and employment counseling and transactions are other areas that could be added to the Denver location, he said.
When it comes to growing in what Silow deemed the Rocky Mountain region, he said the firm would be open to opportunities to expand to Salt Lake City and Reno, Nev. The firm already has an office in Las Vegas, which is another city among those Silow said are viewed as the business centers of the region.
Neal Cohen, head of Fox Rothschild's Denver office, said the firm fits into the Denver market because it has a middle-market focus that is in line with Denver's middle-market business climate. The Denver location also fills a geographic void between Fox Rothschild's East and West Coast offices, Cohen said. He noted that having 20 lawyers in the office now will make additional growth all the easier.
Rubin, who described Lottner Rubin as a high-end real estate boutique, said it was the right time for his firm to merge into a larger law firm. He said the attorneys had been asking themselves how long their Fortune 500 clients would continue to use small boutique firms. Rubin said Fox Rothschild's profitability metrics are in line with Lottner Rubin's and further noted Fox Rothschild keeps its overhead numbers "under control." v Lottner Rubin's three rainmakers, including Rubin, range in age from 65 to 59, Rubin said. He said the merger was a good way of ensuring their business continued.
Fox Rothschild's existing Denver office is too small to house the new attorneys. Lottner Rubin's lease in its sole Denver location is set to expire at the end of the year. Silow said the firm will operate out of two locations as it works to consolidate the offices into new space by year's end.
Ballard Spahr opened its Denver office in 1981 with a focus on real estate and finance work. The firm now has 36 attorneys in the office, according to its website. Petrie and his team have experience in a range of litigation cases, including the representation of businesses and their officers, directors and employees in insurance coverage disputes. They also handle creditors' rights and lender liability matters. Joining with Petrie are partner Sarah B. Wallace, of counsel Lisa A. Lee and associates Courtney A. Levkulich and Matthew A. Morr.
Ballard Spahr Chairman Mark Stewart said he thinks the spurt of news coming out of the Denver market is more coincidence than indicative of a trend. He said it is a relatively saturated market with a few historically Denver-based firms and a number of national firms. One of those Denver firms, Holme Roberts & Owen, merged with Bryan Cave in 2011 and Stewart said there hasn't been much significant movement in the market since then.
When it comes to the team joining Ballard Spahr, Stewart said Petrie and his group were looking for a new home as some of the other members of their firm are looking to retire and wind down their practice. Petrie started his own boutique in the late 1990s after his old firm, Kirkland & Ellis, closed its office in the city. That firm merged with another Kirkland & Ellis offshoot in 2006 to form Featherstone Petrie DeSisto, Stewart said. Most of the attorneys joining Ballard Spahr are those who were with Petrie's original firm, Stewart said.