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Despite cutbacks and layoffs at Holland & Knight across the country, Florida’s largest law firm has consummated a deal a year in the making to double its presence in Chicago. The merger with 85-lawyer McBride Baker & Coles, scheduled to take effect July 1, will give Holland & Knight a total of 160 lawyers in four offices in the Chicago area and a total of 1,289 lawyers firmwide. Plans call for Holland to combine the three downtown offices into one location during the first quarter of next year. The fourth office, in suburban Oakbrook Terrace, will remain in place, said Karen Schoening, spokeswoman for the firm. The expanded Chicago operation will be run by Holland’s current executive partner there, Edward Ryan, 58. In April Holland & Knight fired 60 lawyers and 170 other employees in an effort to buttress a profit picture weakened by expansion costs, recession, 9/11 repercussions and internal inefficiencies. Other employees were demoted, and the firm canceled its annual All-Lawyers conference and took other cost-cutting measures. At the time the cuts were made, however, managing partner Robert R. Feagin III said the firm would continue the expansion strategy that had taken Holland from a 275-lawyer firm to one of more than 1,200 lawyers in the space of a decade. In terms of the number of partners added to Holland & Knight, the latest merger is second only to its November 1998 merger with Sherburn Powers & Needham, which had 90 lawyers in Boston and Providence. In a prepared statement released Tuesday, Feagin called the merger “a perfect strategic blend.” McBride Baker & Coles’ real estate/financial services and corporate and securities practice will broaden Holland’s local practice; McBride’s litigation, labor and employment, technology, intellectual property and trusts and estates practices also will enhance Holland’s existing offerings, he added. Feagin was traveling Wednesday and could not immediately be reached for comment. According to spokeswoman Schoening, Feagin has said that the combining of the firms comes at “no cost” to Holland & Knight. But she said she did not know whether Holland made any profitability or other compensation guarantees to McBride to assuage concerns over this year’s round of bad news at Holland. Ryan said Wednesday that Holland gave no extra guarantees or incentives to do the deal. The name “McBride” refers to a former leader of the firm, Lloyd “Mac” McBride. He is no relation to former Holland managing partner and one of several Democratic candidates for Florida governor, Bill McBride. Holland first entered the Chicago market in February 2000, by merging with Burke Weaver & Prell, which had 38 lawyers.

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