Saul Ewing offices in Baltimore, MD.
Saul Ewing offices in Baltimore, MD. (Photo: Diego M. Radzinschi/ALM)

Philadelphia-based Saul Ewing and Chicago-based Arnstein & Lehr have merged, the firms announced Tuesday, creating a firm of more than 400 lawyers with 15 offices across the Northeast, Midwest and Florida. The combined firm will be called Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr.

Barry Levin, managing partner of Saul Ewing, will continue to serve as managing partner of the merged firm. Jeffrey Shapiro, Arnstein & Lehr’s managing partner, will now lead the combined firm’s Miami office, and will serve on its executive committee.

The two firms confirmed in May that they were in merger talks. Their combination became official Sept. 1.

They were introduced by a consultant and initially referred business to one another. The referrals turned into local counsel arrangements and collaborations, and their compatibility became more and more apparent as they continued to work together, Shapiro said. About six months ago they started to discuss a combination.

“We were looking to get stronger in certain practice areas, and we were looking to really deepen our bench,” Levin said.

Both firms are strong in litigation, real estate, tax, bankruptcy and estates and trusts, Levin said. And while Arnstein & Lehr brought strong private equity, foreign investment, immigration and EB-5 practices to the table, he said, Saul Ewing provided established intellectual property, life sciences, higher education, labor and employment and insurance practices.

The legacy firms have no overlap in geographic footprint.

Saul Ewing, with more than 250 lawyers, is concentrated in the Northeast, with all of its offices located between Washington, D.C., and Boston. Its westernmost office is in Pittsburgh. Arnstein & Lehr’s approximately 150 lawyers bring a significant presence in Chicago, where Saul Ewing had a number of existing clients headquartered, Levin said, and southeast Florida.

Arnstein & Lehr, founded in 1893, had long sought an East Coast presence, including proximity to Delaware for its bankruptcy practice, the firm said.

Levin said the new firm’s size makes its abilities broader and deeper, but keeps the firm “nimble enough to be able to be responsive to our clients.”

“We’ll capture clients we weren’t able to entice before and better service our existing clients,” Shapiro said.

As for further expansion, Levin said the firm plans to grow in its existing markets, but is foremost focused on integration.

“First we need to absorb what we’ve bitten off,” Shapiro said.

The two firms share several clients, their announcement said, but Levin and Shapiro declined to name them.

Saul Ewing has expanded several times through mergers with smaller firms. In 1998 it merged with Baltimore-based Weinberg & Green, which increased its head count from 159 lawyers to 222. In 2006, it grew its Washington, D.C., office by merging with Schmeltzer Aptaker & Shepard, a 17-lawyer boutique. It added a Boston office in 2011 by merging with seven-lawyer Dionne & Gass. It also acquired a small gaming firm based in Bethesda, Maryland, in 2010.

The Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr deal wasn’t the only merger announced Tuesday involving a Philadelphia-based firm and a smaller firm in the Upper Midwest. Ballard Spahr is also combining in a deal with Minneapolis-based Lindquist & Vennum, creating a 650-lawyer firm.