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Boston-based national litigation boutique Manning Gross + Massenburg is eyeing the busy St. Louis metropolitan area through a tie-up with regional firm Kurowski Shultz.

The merger, announced Thursday, will create a combined firm with 14 coast-to-coast offices and 105 attorneys when completed in January. For Manning Gross, which has been expanding rapidly for the last decade, the move gives it a presence in “one of the most intense litigation areas in the country,” according to name partner John Manning.

John Manning.

Both St. Louis and neighboring Madison County, Illinois, are staples of the American Tort Reform Association’s “judicial hellholes” report, with the former remaining a hotbed for talc law suits and the latter continuing to stand out for asbestos litigation.

Manning Gross was known as Manion Gaynor & Manning until earlier this year, when 14 Boston attorneys, including two name partners, left to start Hunton & Williams’ office in that city.

Manning has been working with Kurowski Shultz founder John Kurowski for two decades, and Kurowski’s relationship with Manning Gross predecessor firm Cooley Manion Jones dates back even further.

“We had a mutual client that I was representing in a toxic tort and John’s former partner was representing in a proxy fight,” Kurowski said.

The pair had a partnership in a California venture in 2008 and continued to share referrals and work together on certain matters.

“There are a lot of national firms that I deal with on a regular basis that do not have the collaboration in spirit that MG&M and Kurowski Shultz have,” said Manning.

John Kurowski

In addition to the St. Louis suburbs, Kurowski Shultz also has offices in Chicago and New York.

John is in really critical markets, he has national relationships and our footprint allowed him a better outlet to serve these national relationships,” Manning added. “We’ve wanted to get into the markets he’s in.”

The combined firm will not only retain the Manning Gross name, it will also adopt its management structure. Partners will vote on the new composition of the executive committee in January. The firm’s office managing partners also form a management committee that reports to the executive committee.

But the goal is to be hands off. “We don’t have partner votes of the color of the paper clips,” both Kurowski and Manning agreed. Kurowski also pointed to a decade-old quote from Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan‘s John Quinn: “Good lawyers don’t need to be managed.”

Manning said the firm had been approached about additional growth opportunities, but the firm does not have any plans in the works.

We don’t grow for the sake of growth, we grow to optimize our ability to deliver elite services,” said Kurowski. “This was a tongue in groove fit for people who have worked together for 25 years as allied partners.”

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