When Russell Welsh became chairman and CEO of what was then Polsinelli White & Shalton in 1998, he took the reins at a firm with 90 lawyers. Fifteen years and several mergers later, the firm currently known as Polsinelli Shughart has expanded to 630 attorneys in 16 cities around the country.
The firm isn’t the same place it used to be, Welsh says, and it deserves a new name to reflect that. So, as of late April, the Kansas City–based Am Law 200 firm will be known simply as Polsinelli.
"We all came to a consensus that now is the time to convey that we are one firm and stick with one name," Welsh said.
The firm first started going by Polsinelli Shughart in 2009 following the combination of Kansas City firms Polsinelli Shalton Flanigan Suelthaus and Shughart Thomson & Kilroy. Since then, Polsinelli has added 150 attorneys, including in new offices in Dallas and Los Angeles. Its revenue has also grown nearly 65 percent, from $167.5 million the year of the merger to $275.5 million in 2012, according to reporting by The American Lawyer. (In 2011 the firm ranked 124th on The Am Law 200 with revenue of $235 million.)
The name decision—which Welsh says was reached without the help of outside advisers and received overwhelming approval by the partnership—follows similar moves by a half-dozen other Am Law firms in recent years. Squire, Sanders & Dempsey, for instance, shortened its name to Squire Sanders in January 2012, also following a series of mergers. A number of others cut down their names in 2011, including Locke Lord Bissell & Liddell dropping to Locke Lord and Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker going to Paul Hastings.
Last year, The American Lawyer took a look back at the partners whose names were removed from the door at five firms. In Polsinelli’s case, the trimmed name represents two former partners at the firm. The first is trial lawyer Henry Shughart, who helped found an insurance-defense focused litigation firm in the 1940s and died in 1962. His son Donald Shughart followed him into practice in 1951 and died in 2008. According to a firm spokeswoman, the pair are remembered as "true gentleman lawyers" who were known to work all day, dine together in downtown Kansas City, and return to work until 9 p.m. (Jack Kilroy Jr., the managing partner of the Shughart firm at the time of its combination with Polsinelli and a son of a Shughart founder, is still with the firm, along with his brother, Terrence Kilroy).
The Polsinelli side of the firm has a more recent history. Corporate lawyer James Polsinelli, who is still an active partner, started the firm in 1972 as a financial services, real estate, and corporate shop.
In addition to the name change, Polsinelli is in the process of rebranding its logo and revamping its website with the help of Washington, D.C.–based design agency Greenfield Belser, according to Polsinelli’s chief marketing officer, Allison Yurman. The firm is also working with its lawyers to present a unified front to current and prospective clients, something Welsh describes as "evaluating how we articulate who we are now, opposed to who we’ve been."