Correction, 12/7/12, 11:15 a.m. EST: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the year in which Polsinelli Shugart opened a Denver office. It was 1998. The information has been amended in the seventh paragraph below. We regret the error.
Stinson Morrison Hecker is heading west in making its first foray into a new market in more than a decade, announcing Wednesday that it plans to open a Denver office on February 1 with the addition of a 12-person team from Colorado firm Jones & Keller.
The office will be the ninth for the Kansas City, Missouri–based Am Law 200 firm, which, according to the most recent Am Law financial data, had 275 attorneys and $143.5 million in gross revenue in 2011. In addition to its other Show Me State outposts, in Jefferson City and St. Louis, Stinson has lawyers in Omaha; Overland Park and Wichita, Kansas; Phoenix; and Washington, D.C.
Stinson managing partner Mark Hinderks says the move into Denver was driven more by the new hires’ practice specialty—banking and financial services—than geography, though he acknowledges that the firm had “looked around a bit” in the city previously. The group joining from Jones & Keller includes partners Ernie Panasci, Deborah Bayles, Zsolt Bessko, Perry Glantz, and Kristin Godfrey, four associates, and three staff members. Collectively, the team represents more than 75 financial institutions, according to Hinderks, augmenting the 200 such clients Stinson already serves.
The new hires will remain in their offices in the Denver Tech Center, and Hinderks says the firm has no immediate plans to find new office space in the Mile High City. Panasci says his group is in a separate office from the rest of Jones & Keller, which also has attorneys in downtown Denver. Many of the new lawyers are licensed to practice in Arizona and are expected to supplement Stinson’s existing 28-lawyer Phoenix office.
Reid Godbolt, the president of 34-lawyer Jones & Keller, wished the group well and said his firm will continue to be a full-service business firm working for clients in the West as it has since its founding in 1936. “We are not comfortable with a large firm overhead structure,” he says, adding that Jones & Keller has received overtures from larger firms over the years.
Panasci says his group began talking with Stinson representatives about six months ago. The initial contact came via Robert Monroe, the cochair of Stinson’s banking and financial services division, whom Panasci has known for two decades. Panasci says the two have complementary practices as well as a similar philosophy about where their sector is headed. “We both think there will be significant consolidation within the banking industry,” he says, meaning more mergers and acquisitions work and increasingly complex legal needs as the firm’s banking clients continue to grow.
Stinson is just the latest Missouri-based firm to expand into Denver. In July, Kansas City firm Spencer Fane Britt & Browne combined with 22-lawyer Denver firm Grimshaw & Harring. Kansas City-based Polsinelli Shugart, which opened a Denver office in 1998, expanded its presence in the market in August 2011 by acquiring 13-lawyer boutique Hensley Kim, a month after St. Louis–based Husch Blackwell merged with 24-lawyer local firm Jacobs Chase and roughly a year after Kansas City–based Lathrop & Gage acquired Kamlet Reichert.
Denver was also the site of a substantial merger at the start of 2012 when Bryan Cave, a firm with roots in St. Louis, finalized a union with Denver-based Holme Roberts & Owen that created a 1,100-lawyer firm with offices in 26 cities.
Stinson itself is the product of a 2002 merger between Stinson Mag & Fizzell and Morrison & Hecker. Five years later, the firm expanded by another 40 lawyers by absorbing St. Louis shop Blumenfeld Kaplan & Sandweiss.