(Courtesy photo)

Honigman has lured Tracy Larsen from Barnes & Thornburg, where the Grand Rapids, Michigan-based dealmaker led the firm’s 200-plus lawyer corporate group and was a member of the management committee.

The coup for Michigan-based Honigman came at the expense of a larger, unnamed national firm that Larsen said he was considering joining when he decided to leave Barnes & Thornburg, a firm he joined as a partner in 2003. He declined to comment on his departure from Barnes & Thornburg other than to say he had the “utmost respect” for his former colleagues.

Larsen has represented a slew of companies based in or near Grand Rapids, including grocer Meijer Inc., boot maker Wolverine World Wide Inc. and IT firm Service Express Inc. But he also handles deals nationally and globally and typically works on more than 30 deals in any given year, including 32 in 2015 worth more than a combined $2 billion and 35 in 2013 totaling more than $5 billion.

“We’ve been talking about Grand Rapids forever, but we always said we’re not going to Grand Rapids unless Tracy Larsen opens the office for us,” said David Foltyn, Honigman’s chairman and CEO. “He’s the highest-end corporate lawyer in the western part of the state.”

The move also comes at a time of broader transition at 270-lawyer Honigman, which has seen 29 partners depart in the past year while adding 13, according to data from ALM’s Rival Edge. A Crain’s Detroit Business report from October said a number of lawyers within the firm’s litigation department were leaving the firm as they felt their practices weren’t a priority.

Eleven of the 29 partners who departed in the past 12 months were listed as being in the litigation department, according to Rival Edge. One of the new partners is identified as a litigation department leader, although in June last year the firm expanded into Chicago with the addition of well-regarded 14-lawyer litigation boutique Schopf & Weiss.

Foltyn said the transition in the firm’s litigation department is “nuanced” and is a response to the broad changes in that practice brought on largely by pricing pressure and increased competition. He said the firm has focused on developing its practice in IP and life sciences litigation, bringing on partners from Kirkland & Ellis, Ropes & Gray and K&L Gates.

“The whole world of litigation has changed, and what we’ve been focusing on is being as efficient and being as high quality in that practice as we can be,” Foltyn said.

“There has been some adding and some subtracting at the same time. There are a lot of practices that are happier and better at other firms than they are here. And that’s just the way it goes but we’re very focused on litigation and we think we’re headed in a great direction.”

Larsen will bolster an already strong corporate practice at Honigman that typically closes more than 150 deals a year, Foltyn said. Larsen said he chose Honigman in large part because of that expertise, noting that it’s the only Band One firm in Michigan as rated by Chambers and Partners.

Larsen said he was also drawn to the firm’s practice because of its work in the private equity area, a practice he said he has wanted to do more work in over the past few years.

“It’s a very important part of their practice, and that helps drive the skillsets frankly into the firm that I need,” Larsen said.

Barnes & Thornburg has named Robert W. Sikkel as managing partner of its Grand Rapids office to replace Larsen.

“Bob will maintain his well-established labor and employment law practice. Under his leadership, we will continue to grow and to advise our industry-leading clients throughout Western Michigan given our sophisticated practices and legal talent,” a firm spokesperson said in a statement.

Contact Roy Strom at rstrom@alm.com. On Twitter: @RoyWStrom