Saul Ewing will expand its Washington, D.C., presence through a planned merger with 20-attorney boutique Schmeltzer Aptaker & Shepard in hopes of strengthening its labor and employment group and bio-technology practice.

Saul Ewing currently has six attorneys in its Washington, D.C., office, but firm managing partner David S. Antzis said the merger would make that office the firm’s third largest behind the Philadelphia and Baltimore offices. The merger will put Saul Ewing close to the 300-lawyer mark.