Reporters Jenna Greene, Sheri Qualters and Zoe Tillman profile 15 firms that entered (or rejoined) the list this year.

#57 FAEGRE BAKER DANIELS

683 LAWYERS ♦ MINNEAPOLIS

The January 2012 merger between Faegre & Benson and Baker & Daniels spawned Faegre Baker Daniels, debuting at No. 57 on this year’s NLJ 350.

The industry-focused approach at the 13-office firm covers energy, resources and clean technology; financial services; food and agriculture; and life sciences.

"We’re trying to embrace the change that’s around us," managing partner Andrew Humphrey said.

Minneapolis is the largest office. The firm has additional offices in Boulder, Colo.; Chicago; Denver; Des Moines, Iowa; three Indiana cities; and one in Washington, plus offices in Beijing, London and Shanghai.

A recent win for Faegre was the $11.6 million verdict in September for skin care device maker Pacific Bioscience Laboratories Inc. in a federal patent, trade dress and false advertising case in Washington state.

In January, the firm’s food and agriculture team helped Hormel Foods Corp. close a $700 million purchase of the Skippy peanut butter business from Unilever United States Inc. 

#257 TUCKER ELLIS

152 LAWYERS ♦ CLEVELAND

Deep trial expertise takes Tucker Ellis lawyers beyond the firm’s five offices. "For pretty much any type of trial work we have a great capability anywhere in the country," managing partner Joe Morford said.

The firm’s largest office is in Cleveland, and it has additional offices in Columbus, Ohio; Denver; Los Angeles; and San Fran­cisco.

It emphasizes pharmaceutical, mass tort, products liability, class action and commercial litigation. Public company mergers and acquisitions, general corporate services and real estate matters are additional growth drivers.

The firm has kept busy lately with key client Johnson & Johnson. Its Mentor Corp. relies on the firm to defend cases involving transvaginal mesh devices.

Corporate giants including military contractor Northrop Grumman Corp. and aerospace and building systems company United Technologies Corp. also tap into Tucker’s litigation expertise.

"Everything is chugging along," Morford said.

#264 CONSTANGY, BROOKS & SMITH

148 LAWYERS ♦ ATLANTA

Growth has been a habit at management-side labor and employment shop Constangy, Brooks & Smith.

The law firm has 25 offices in 14 states, including last year’s additions in Opelika, Ala., and West Point, Ga.

Neil Wasser, chairman of the executive committee, said he ramped up the firm’s expansion after he took the helm in 2006. "Our clients were looking to us to have a larger presence," he said.

The partnership finances its growth without debt, so partners must be "committed to our decision to grow" and to hiring new lawyers, he said.

Among its successes, the firm in December won a case in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit for the North Carolina Growers Association. The court upheld an injunction blocking labor regulations that would have boosted farmers’ costs of hiring agricultural guest workers.

#271 GUNDERSON DETTMER STOUGH VILLENEUVE FRANKLIN & HACHIGIAN

144 LAWYERS ♦ REDWOOD CITY, CALIF.

Business law firm Gunderson Dettmer Stough Villeneuve Franklin & Hachigian has a sharp focus on corporate law and a few ancillary practices.

Key practices at the firm include mergers and acquisitions and a venture-capital and private-equity fund practice. It also handles general corporate and securities matters.

"It’s a business law firm focused on venture capital and emerging-growth companies broadly defined," said chairman and founding partner Robert Gunderson.

It serves its core market with other offices in Boston, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego and Beijing.

The firm advised Current TV on its sale of the network co-founded by former U.S. Vice President Al Gore to Al Jazeera Media Network. The deal announced in January reportedly closed at $500 million.

This spring, Gunderson helped blogging and social-media platform Tumblr with its acquisition by Yahoo! Inc. The price tag was $1.1 billion in cash.

#288 MANNING & KASS, ELLROD, RAMIREZ, TRESTER

137 LAWYERS ♦ LOS ANGELES

Practicing at Manning & Kass, Ellrod, Ramirez, Trester can sometimes seem like being a reality-show contestant.

The firm builds loyalty and personal bonds through paintball games, karate workshops and an obstacle course on a U.S. Marine Corps base, said managing partner Steven Manning.

"The most important thing is this partnership being knit well together," Manning said. "The wrong person inside the boardroom could mess it up."

The firm’s practices include civil litigation and defense work in the employment, health care, medical malpractice and insurance arenas.

It’s taken its lawyer boot camp on the road to Irvine, Calif.; San Diego; San Francisco; and Scottsdale, Ariz.

True to its philosophy, the firm won a precedent-setting California Supreme Court case last year involving bumper car rides for a Great America amusement park owner on the primary assumption of risk doctrine, which reduces liability for certain recreational activities with inherent risks.

#313 WHYTE HIRSCHBOECK DUDEK

130 LAWYERS ♦ MILWAUKEE

Whyte Hirschboeck Dudek is known for its sharp corporate lawyers as well as its tough litigators. The law firm, which has an outpost in Madison, Wis., and opened an office in Chicago earlier this year, has embraced a "slow and steady" approach to growth, said chief executive Paul Eberle. "We’re looking for merger opportunities, but we’re picky." Whyte has focused on associate and lateral hires, continuing to expand even during the years of economic downturn. The firm primarily represents regional companies, but its clients also include national businesses such as Cleaver-Brooks Inc.

Firm lawyers recently represented the Geor­gia-based boiler room product maker in connection with the issuance of $300 million of senior secured notes. Whyte lawyers are also representing the Archdiocese of Milwaukee in its Chapter 11 bankruptcy, a groundbreaking case. "We’re very optimistic about our position in the market," Eberle said, pointing to Milwaukee’s "great cost structure and great platform."

#314 GREENSPOON MARDER

130 LAWYERS ♦ FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA.

With offices in nine Florida locations, Greenspoon Marder is well positioned to serve as a go-to firm for real estate and resort development clients. But in its 32-year history, the firm has grown to offer broader services for businesses. Its headcount jumped substantially in December 2011, when it acquired 50-lawyer Ruden McClosky, which was also based in Fort Lauderdale. The combination was "very complementary," said founding partner Gerald Greenspoon. "It added to the depth of practice areas we already covered," he said, "and really expanded what it is we’re capable of taking on."

Greenspoon and Michael Marder launched the firm as young lawyers in 1981 with a handshake over a kitchen table. "Looking back, it seems amazing how much has occurred," Greenspoon said. The firm has kept busy recently representing timeshare giant Westgate Resorts Ltd. in a series of securitizations totaling nearly $700 million.

#319 BOWLES RICE

128 LAWYERS ♦ CHARLESTON, W. VA.

Bowles Rice "grew up around energy and banking," said managing partner Thomas Heywood, and both areas have remained key to the firm’s growth in recent years. The biggest boost has come from representing natural gas producers that are making major investments in the Marcellus and Utica shale plays in the Appalachian basin.

"The energy boom in the region is fueling our growth," Heywood said. The 128-lawyer firm opened two new offices last year, one in Southpointe, Pa., and one in Moundsville, W.Va. Other offices are in Lexington, Ky.; Winchester, Va.; and the West Virginia towns of Martinsburg, Morgantown and Parkersburg.

"We needed a larger geographic footprint to meet the needs of our clients," Heywood said. "We’re doing blue-chip work for blue-chip clients." The firm’s practice goes beyond energy. Last year, for example, Bowles lawyers represented Monsanto Co. in a toxic tort class action that settled on the eve of trial.

#327 SPENCER FANE BRITT & BROWNE

125 LAWYERS ♦ KANSAS CITY, MO.

A merger with 22-lawyer Grimshaw & Harring in Denver last year propelled Spencer Fane Britt & Browne into the ranks of the nation’s 350 largest law firms. For Spencer Fane, a firm that traces its roots to 1879, the merger offered a chance to expand its Midwestern footprint into the Rockies.

The firm’s largest office is in Kansas City, Mo., but it also has branches in St. Louis and Jefferson City, Mo., as well as Overland Park, Kan., and Omaha, Neb. "It was a natural fit to go to Denver," said firm chairman Patrick Whalen. Originally best known for its labor and employment practice, the firm practices today are "well diversified," he said.

Firm lawyers were recently lauded for winning one of Missouri’s biggest defense verdicts in 2012, when a jury found in favor of client Guardian Life Insurance Co. of America in a suit involving a life insurance lapse.

#333 SMITH, ANDERSON, BLOUNT, DORSETT, MITCHELL & JERNIGAN

122 LAWYERS ♦ RALEIGH, N.C.

Smith, Anderson, Blount, Dorsett, Mitchell & Jernigan last year donated $100,000 to Legal Aid of North Carolina to help commemorate the law firm’s 100th year in business. But the century milestone wasn’t the only reason to celebrate. Last year, Smith Anderson handled 240 deals worth $15 billion. It is ranked among one of the top borrower-side law firms for leveraged loans by volume, according to managing partner Carl Patterson Jr. "That’s more than most Wall Street firms," he said.

Recently, firm lawyers handled the second-largest IPO to date in 2013, representing pharmaceutical services company Quintiles Transnational Holdings Inc. in its $1 ­billion initial public stock offering. In addition, Smith Anderson litigators recently saw a $37 million breach-of-contract jury verdict for client Plasma Centers of America upheld on appeal. "We’ve grown organically, even during the downtime," Patterson said. "We’re in a great market that will continue to grow."

#334 COLE, SCHOTZ, MEISEL, FORMAN & LEONARD

121 LAWYERS ♦ HACKENSACK, N.J.

Cole, Schotz, Meisel, Forman & Leonard is big on bankruptcy work, representing Chapter 11 debtors and other key stakeholders. With a practice that includes more than 20 full-time restructuring lawyers, co-managing shareholder Michael Sirota said the firm has had a hand in a host of large insolvency proceedings, including being part of the team representing Tribune Co. The firm also operates a significant real estate practice, handling retail leasing for companies including Vornado Realty Trust Co. and representing opportunity fund clients such as Savanna Partners LLC and Canyon Capital Realty Advisors LLC in acquisitions. Founded in 1928, the firm has offices in Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York and Texas and is eyeing a possible office in Florida.

"There’s no preconceived notion that we need to be in a particular location at a particular time," he said. "We’ve expanded and opened offices based on people we know."

#336 CONNELL FOLEY

121 LAWYERS ♦ ROSELAND, N.J.

During the past 75 years, Connell Foley has grown from a small shop of a dozen lawyers to a 121-attorney firm handling matters from Washington to Maine. The firm focuses on federal litigation, with an emphasis on health care, intellectual property, pharmaceutical and products liability work.

Last year, the firm scored a jury verdict for client TransWeb LLC, which accused 3M Innovative Properties Co. of trying to enforce patents in violation of antitrust laws. Other practice areas include trusts and estates and construction, plus an alternative dispute resolution practice featuring retired state and federal judges. The firm has four offices in New Jersey, including its home base in Roseland, and offices in New York and Philadelphia. According to managing partner Michael McBride, the firm has continued to staff cases leanly while offering competitive pricing.

#340 LISKOW & LEWIS

120 LAWYERS ♦ NEW ORLEANS

With offices in New Orleans, Houston and Lafayette, La., Liskow & Lewis has been well positioned to take advantage of the growing demand for energy lawyers. The 78-year-old firm represents energy giants including Chevron Corp., Exxon Mobil Corp. and Shell Oil Co., not to mention embattled BP PLC.

The firm is a member of BP’s defense team in connection with the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster, and advised the company as it reached a $7.8 billion settlement last year. Now that some of the energy business has shifted from New Orleans — home to most of the firm’s 120 lawyers — to Texas, firm president and managing partner R. Keith Jarrett said Liskow will expand its presence in Houston. The firm is also handling more international energy matters.

"That’s where we’d like to position ourselves — to handle our clients’ energy needs no matter where those needs arise," he said.

#347 COX , CASTLE & NICHOLSON

117 LAWYERS ♦ LOS ANGELES

Cox, Castle & Nicholson aims to be a one-stop shop for the real estate industry, hand­ling development deals from the ground up (literally) and making lawyers available for litigation, tax matters and any other related matters.

Established in 1968, the Los Angeles-based firm also has offices in San Francisco and Irvine, Calif. Mario Camara, senior member of the firm’s executive committee, said the firm’s clients include developers across the industry, from residential and retail to resorts. The firm’s been building practices in alternative energy, affordable housing and real estate investment, Camara said.

Last year, it represented the California State Teachers’ Retirement System in purchasing a majority interest in management and development company LCOR Inc. for $800 million. Camara said the firm has fully rebounded from the recession, thanks to a diversity of practice areas.

#350 LOOPER REED & MCGRAW 

117 LAWYERS ♦ HOUSTON

Coming in as the last firm on the NLJ 350 this year, Looper Reed & McGraw splits its work between transactions and litigation, with a focus on health care, tax and energy. The energy sector is where the firm has seen the most growth, president and managing director J. Cary Gray said. Looper Reed, a full-service commercial law firm with offices in Houston, Dallas and Tyler, Texas, also is handling a growing number of agricultural matters, Gray said.

That includes serving as a member of the plaintiffs’ executive committee in multidistrict litigation against Bayer CropScience L.P. involving genetically modified rice. The case settled in 2011 for $750 million. As the firm has grown and entered the midsize market in recent years, its ability to staff matters efficiently and offer more flexibility on rates has made it increasingly attractive to larger companies, Gray said. The firm was established in 1985.