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The names of Philadelphia’s historic law firms continue to shrink. The latest to enter that game is Duane Morris & Heckscher, which is now branding itself simply as Duane Morris. Firm chairman Sheldon Bonovitz said the 96-year-old name will officially stay the same, but the firm will be known only as Duane Morris. Bonovitz said he believes the new branded name allows the firm to keep pace with the corporate-led trend. “It’s making a statement that we are running a business with a corporate approach, but not in a bad sense,” he said. “I think it’s important to embody the values of your firm without being a prisoner to its past. We’re a forward-thinking firm, which is reflected in this strategy. But I think we’ve also done a good job at preserving our values. Whether you have two of the names or three of the names [of original partners], that doesn’t say much one way or the other about preserving the firm’s culture and values.” To that end, Bonovitz wrote a letter, dated Dec. 18, to retired partners, many of whom were familiar with name partner Stevens Heckscher or his son, Maurice. Bonovitz told the former partners that the name change means more than being contemporary. He said it represents achieving the firm’s strategic objective of becoming a national law firm, saying the rapidly-expanding firm would like to expand each of its major-market offices by 50 to 100 lawyers. “We have accomplished all of this while preserving our strong firm culture and traditions,” Bonovitz wrote. “… We have successfully preserved our Quaker heritage; we greatly value it and it has served us well in this modern day and age. To this day, we have not had a vote on any firm matter. We have continued the firm tradition of decision-making through consensus building. Our governance structure is one that is rooted in our history, as is our sense of fairness on financial matters such as compensation.” But during an interview, Bonovitz was quick to point out that the reason the firm decided not to officially drop the “Heckscher” from its name had little to do with showing deference to one of its firm patriarchs. “It was clearly a question of logistics,” he said. “If we changed our name legally, we’d have to sign thousands of documents, and it just would have been a real mess. So because of the complexities surrounding it, we decided to do it this way. But we’ll be known to the public as Duane Morris.” While firms have been shortening or branding their names for quite some time, the trend has hit Philadelphia in full force this year. Dechert Price & Rhoads, after merging with a London firm, decided to shorten its name to simply Dechert. Earlier this fall, Saul Ewing Remick & Saul officially changed its name to Saul Ewing, and Reed Smith Shaw & McClay became Reed Smith. Duane Morris has chosen the path selected by Morgan Lewis & Bockius, which brands itself simply as Morgan Lewis; that firm officially kept the longer name out of respect for longtime managing partner Morris Bockius. But not every firm is rushing to shorten its name. Montgomery McCracken Walker & Rhoads, Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis, Blank Rome Comisky & McCauley, Drinker Biddle & Reath, and Ballard Spahr Andrews & Ingersoll all have decided to keep their names while informally marketing themselves by the shorter names by which they are commonly referred.

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