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CHICAGO � Husch Blackwell Sanders, the recently merged Midwest firm with 630 attorneys, will open an office in Chicago in the first quarter of this year, becoming the latest firm to expand here. The firm expects to have a small group of attorneys in Chicago at first, including lateral hires and existing firm lawyers, and to increase the head count to about 20 lawyers within two years, said Husch Blackwell attorney John Mandelbaum, who is leading the effort. Husch & Eppenberger of St. Louis and Blackwell Sanders of Kansas City, Mo., announced last month that they would merge to form a firm with 16 offices mainly in the Midwest, including Omaha, Neb., and Springfield, Mo., but also in Washington and London. They picked the new firm name this month by flipping a coin and expect to be more full integrated by Feb. 1. The firm expects about $275 million in revenue this year. Expanding relationships Husch Blackwell is moving into Chicago so that it can expand its existing relationships with about 50 clients in banking, insurance and other industries, Mandelbaum said. One of the firm’s clients, LaSalle Bank, was acquired by Bank of America Corp. last year, giving the firm a path for building up that relationship. Mandelbaum declined to name additional clients in the city. The firms have served Chicago clients mainly from outside the city, which can limit the business, said Mandelbaum. “It’s not going to grow significantly unless we’re able to be geographically closer to the operations in this area,” he said. Blackwell Sanders already has an office in Belleville, Ill., and Husch & Eppenberger came to the merger with an office in Peoria, Ill. Mandelbaum, a commercial transactions partner who has been with Blackwell Sanders for 18 years, will lead the new office and is now working out of his new home in Highland Park, Ill. Prior to taking the new post, Mandelbaum led Blackwell Sanders’ office in London, where he was an attorney for eight years after starting with the firm in Kansas City. Husch Blackwell will be following in the wake of other firms that have landed in Chicago during the past two years. Some of the biggest new entrants include Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker; Reed Smith; and Drinker Biddle & Reath. While some of the firms, including Reed Smith and Philadelphia’s Drinker Biddle, have penetrated Chicago by acquiring smaller firms, others stocked their offices with small group hires and existing attorneys. Husch Blackwell is in discussions with some attorney groups and expects to attract more than one of them to the new office, said Mandelbaum, who declined to be more specific.

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