David Krutz

Michael Best & Friedrich has taken on six lawyers in Salt Lake City from Kruse Landa Maycock & Ricks, including three of the local firm’s name partners.

The move is the latest expansion bid by Michael Best, the former home of ex-White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, as the Milwaukee-based firm seeks to outgrow its Am Law 200 peers in a tepid market for demand.

The new additions in Utah roughly equate to an outright acquisition of Kruse Landa, as among the five partners leaving for Michael Best are founders James Kruse, Ellen Maycock and Lyndon Ricks. Kruse Landa’s Jennifer Falk and Kevin Timken are also joining Michael Best as partners, along with Betsy Voter, who comes aboard as senior counsel. Three paralegals and one support staffer are also making the move.

What remains of Kruse Landa will wind down its operations as the four lawyers not joining Michael Best find other positions. The lawyers headed to Michael Best will continue to work in their current office space until Michael Best’s office in downtown Salt Lake City can be expanded to accommodate them, which Michael Best managing partner David Krutz said should be by January.

Michael Best’s expansion in Salt Lake City is the latest in a string of hires by a 230-plus lawyer firm that brought in $123 million in gross revenue in 2016. That put Michael Best at No. 175 on the Am Law 200 list. Gross revenue growth at Michael Best last year was 7.2 percent, compared with 1.2 percent by the broader Second Hundred. In 2015, the firm’s revenue virtually held flat, which was positive news compared to the Second Hundred’s average performance of a 3.2 percent drop in gross revenue from the prior year.

Michael Best has hired four partners in Chicago in recent months—including ERISA litigation chair Michael Graham, formerly of McDermott Will & Emery, and commercial litigator James Fieweger, a founding partner of Windy City firm Falkenberg Fieweger & Ives—and in March brought on former Latham & Watkins partner Craig Stoehr in Milwaukee. (Stoehr, who most recently served as general counsel at travel company Thomas Cook Group plc, once helped open Latham’s office in Qatar.)

As for Priebus, who had been on leave from Michael Best since 2011 after being elected chair of the Republican National Committee, he officially left the firm’s partnership earlier this year to serve as President Donald Trump’s chief of staff. Michael Best managing partner David Krutz said “it remains to be seen” where Priebus will land now that he’s out of the White House.

Krutz said Michael Best has been looking to grow both geographically and in certain practice areas since revisiting its strategic planning last year. The firm has focused its growth in Austin, Texas; Chicago; the Raleigh-Durham region of North Carolina; Salt Lake City; and Washington, D.C.

“The criteria we look for are, one, do we have a client base in those markets already? Two, does the market have a growing economy? And three, does it play off the strengths we have as a firm so we can compete in that market and grow effectively in terms of both clients and lateral attorneys,” Krutz said.

Krutz added that Michael Best’s industry focuses include technology companies, manufacturing firms and highly regulated markets.

The new team Salt Lake City will bolster the firm’s corporate and litigation groups. More specifically, Kruse and Temkin lead a securities practice; Voter heads a broker-dealer practice; Ricks has a corporate practice advising mostly privately held companies; and Maycock and Falk are litigators with a focus on family law.

The mass lateral hire grew out of a broker-dealer client of Kruse and Voter’s that they shared with Richard “Rick” Ensor, Michael Best’s Salt Lake City managing partner, who joined the firm in late 2013 after it absorbed the Vantus Law Goup, a local business and litigation boutique.

“We were impressed overall with both the quality of the practices, the attorneys and their client base,” said Krutz about his firm’s new hires. “And we’re also very confident in the quality of the people.”