Foley & Lardner office in Miami.
Foley & Lardner office in Miami. (Photo: J. Albert Diaz/ALM)

Foley & Lardner, which more than a year ago broke off tie-up talks with British firm Eversheds, has approached New York’s Friedman Kaplan Seiler & Adelman about a potential tie-up, according to two sources briefed on the matter.

The Milwaukee-based Am Law 100 firm has remained on the hunt for opportunities to expand its operations since its discussions dissolved with Eversheds, which eventually found a merger partner in Atlanta-based Sutherland Asbill & Brennan. The combined 2,300-lawyer firm, Eversheds Sutherland, has continued to grow since going live earlier this year.

Friedman Kaplan, a 46-lawyer boutique that handles mainly litigation, has strong ties to Foley & Lardner. The latter opened in New York back in 2004 after absorbing New York litigation firm Friedman, Wang & Bleiberg. Peter Wang, a name partner at that firm, currently serves as managing partner of Foley & Lardner’s New York office. Wang’s son, Jeffrey Wang, is a litigator who made partner at Friedman Kaplan in 2011. And the family connections don’t stop there.

Jonathan Friedman, a son of Friedman Kaplan founding partner Edward Friedman, is currently senior counsel with Foley & Lardner’s litigation and dispute resolution group in New York. (Arthur Friedman, a former Friedman Wang name partner who died at 79 in 2006, is unrelated to the other Friedmans.) Foley & Lardner and Friedman Kaplan, which have been adverse on some client matters, are currently working together representing forestry company Rayonier Inc. in securities litigation in a Florida federal court.

A union with Friedman Kaplan, which in addition to its Manhattan headquarters has a small office in nearby Newark, New Jersey, would almost double in size Foley & Lardner’s roughly 50-lawyer New York office. A partner at Friedman Kaplan, who requested anonymity when discussing firm matters, downplayed the possibility of a merger, noting that larger firms are frequently in contact to refer certain matters or discuss opportunities to work together. One of those firms, Lowenstein Sandler, approached Friedman Kaplan last year about a potential union, sources said. Gary Wingens, chairman and managing partner at Lowenstein, did not return a request for comment.

Friedman Kaplan managing partner Eric Seiler declined to comment for this story. Interest in the firm, founded in 1986, comes amid pressure on many midsize New York firms to grow via mergers. Friedman Kaplan has some high-profile alumni, including former New Jersey U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman, who was ousted from that role last month. Fishman joined the U.S. Department of Justice in 2009, the same year that Friedman Kaplan hired Eric Corngold, a former executive attorney general for economic justice under ex-New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo. Corngold now serves as head of Friedman Kaplan’s litigation group.

Foley & Lardner’s Wang, firm chairman and CEO Jay Rothman and COO Blane Prescott—hired by the firm in 2014 from Brownstein Hyatt Farber & Schreck—did not respond to requests for comment. (Prescott, a former partner at legal consultancy Hildebrandt International who helped Brownstein Hyatt grow through mergers, spoke with The American Lawyer in 2010 about his decision to leave the consulting world behind and try his hand at law firm management.)

A Foley & Lardner spokesman also did not respond to requests for comment. While the firm has not done a major merger in some time, it does have a history of combinations, bolting on 75-lawyer Los Angeles firm Weissburg & Aronson in 1996 and absorbing three Florida firms between 1985 and 1991 in Orlando’s van den Berg, Gay, Burke, Wilson & Arkin, Tampa’s Hill, Hill & Dickenson and Jacksonville’s Commander Legler Werber Dawes Sadler & Howell.

Additional reporting by Christine Simmons.

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