Boulder, Colorado

Michael Best & Friedrich is continuing an acquisition streak by adding seven lawyers in Colorado through a merger announced Monday with Modus Law, a small firm focused on representing startup companies.

Michael Best has recently focused on growth in the Mountain West region, where five of its 14 offices are located. Almost a year ago the Milwaukee-based Am Law 200 firm expanded in Salt Lake City after acquiring the bulk of local shop Kruse Landa Maycock & Ricks.

In March, Michael Best brought on a four-partner IP team in Denver from Lathrop Gage, almost a year after the firm’s consulting arm, Michael Best Strategies, snagged a three-person public policy team in the Mile-High City. The lawyers from Modus Law now joining Michael Best had been based in Boulder and Broomfield, Colorado.

In October 2017, Michael Best re-hired former partner Reince Priebus, President Donald Trump’s first chief of staff, as president and chief strategist. In July, Michael Best recruited former law firm consultant Truda Chow in Chicago to serve as its new COO.

Those additions have helped the Michael Best boost its gross revenue by nearly 9 percent in 2017, to $133.9 million, with revenue per lawyer and profits per equity partner of $605,000 and $579,000, respectively, according to The American Lawyer.

“The addition of the Modus Law team represents a strategic move by the firm to expand its footprint in the growing Colorado market,” said a statement from David Krutz, Michael Best’s managing partner. “We’re excited to welcome such a dynamic and well-respected group of attorneys that have built such a strong reputation throughout Colorado.”

Modus Law is led by partner Shawn Stigler, who will be the firm’s managing partner in Boulder and Broomfield. Stigler founded Modus Law about 10 years ago and advises startups and privately held entities on business sales and financing, commercial litigation, corporate formation, employment, M&A and trademark matters, Michael Best said in a statement.

Stigler said he had been approached by larger firms about mergers in the past but had never pursued those opportunities. He said he was drawn to Michael Best for a number of reasons, including its Venture Best practice, which is a branded group aimed at representing venture capital-backed clients. Stigler, who is from Milwaukee, also said the firm’s “modest and humble Midwest attitude” resonated with him. (Stigler named his own firm Modus Law because he said he was uncomfortable with the “ego” involved in naming a firm after himself.)

Shawn Stigler

Stigler also said he supported Michael Best’s strategy to service venture capital clients “between the coasts.”

“They’re basically going into or are already in all the markets I would have gone into if I had a little more resources at Modus,” Stigler said. “New York and Boston have strong [venture capital] and entrepreneurial markets, as does California. But those are becoming ever-challenging places to go, and I think Michael Best is really smart to go to places where a lot of business owners are going and meeting them where they are.”

Also joining Michael Best from Modus Law are litigation partner Patrick Bernal; transactional associates David Cline, David DiGiacomo and Elizabeth Prendergast; intellectual property senior counsel Jolly-Johanna Northrop; and labor and employment associate Kaitlyn Trizna.

Many of the Venture Best lawyers have themselves led venture-backed companies, and they will enlist a couple more entrepreneurs from the Modus Law team. DiGiacomo, for example, once founded a music production company and an organic pet food company, according to his LinkedIn profile. And Predergast had launched a law firm called Impact Legal Solutions LLC that focused on providing low-cost legal services for mission-driven organizations, or so-called B-corporations.

Stigler said Modus Law had its own entrepreneurial style in that it rarely worked on the billable hour, instead offering clients a “menu” of potential legal services that it offered with price estimates.

“I think all of our attorneys and team have lived in that entrepreneurial ecosystem,” Stigler said. “We bring that mindset and creativity toward solving problems and creating a win-win for clients that lets us add a lot of value and do it in a way that is palatable for clients.”

Michael Best’s acquisition of Modus Law is the latest law firm combination involving a Colorado-based firm so far this year.

In mid-July, Denver-based Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck bolted on Las Vegas-based Schwartz Flansburg, a deal that occurred only a few weeks after Fox Rothschild added six lawyers in Denver after absorbing Greenwood Village, Colorado-based Rollin Braswell Fisher. In May, Denver-based litigation firm Haddon, Morgan and Foreman absorbed local shop Stimson Glover Stancil Leedy.