Jay H. Sandak, Ann H. Zucker, Brian T. Henebry and William J. Hennessey, Jr. ()

A Stamford-based real estate development and litigation firm has joined forces with Carmody & Torrance, creating a new firm with a new name that could become one of the 10 highest-grossing legal operations in the state.

Carmody & Torrance had 62 attorneys in offices in Waterbury, Southbury and New Haven. Sandak Hennessey & Greco had 15 attorneys in Stamford. The new entity will have 77 lawyers in four offices and be known as Carmody Torrance Sandak & Hennessey.

Brian Henebry, the managing partner of Carmody & Torrance, will retain that title with the new larger firm. He said Carmody had been looking for opportunities to expand into the Fairfield County market for some time. “Our firm has been looking for the right match in Fairfield County and we knew this was it,” Henebry said. “Both of our firms share the same focus — achieving the clients’ objectives, getting results and doing so efficiently at a reasonable cost.”

Carmody & Torrance had $26 million in gross revenues in 2012, according to the Trib 20 listing of the state’s highest-grossing firms, which put it in 12th place overall. Although numbers for Sandak Hennessey weren’t immediately available, it appears certain that the new firm would move up at least one notch and perhaps even rival Halloran & Sage (revenues of $35 million) for the final spot in the top 10.

Peter Giuliani, a Weston-based law firm management consultant, said both Carmody and Sandak Hennessey are known as “very fine” law firms. “Both are highly regarded in the marketplace and by other lawyers,” Giuliani said. “Both firms have a strong litigation bench, and a reputation for having top lawyers in other fields.”

Strategically speaking, Giuliani said the merger is of particular interest because it gives Carmody a Fairfield County presence to be paired with its established offices in New Haven. County. “At 77 lawyers, they will be one of the larger indigenous Connecticut law firms,” Giuliani said.

According to the Trib 20, only seven other Connecticut-based firms had more than 77 lawyers as of the end of 2012. One other firm, Pullman & Comley, had exactly 77.

Corporate Relationships

Sandak Hennessey lawyers bring extensive experience in commercial real estate, zoning and land use matters, along with strong corporate relationships throughout Fairfield County. The firm has also in recent years built up its alternative dispute resolution practice, which Henebry said will see further growth under the new name.

Carmody has also been expanding its ADR practice in recent years, along with its litigation, intellectual property, labor and employment, energy and utility, trusts and estates and environmental practices. “This is a merger of all interests, all staff,” Henebry said. “From a technical standpoint, it was important to both firms that there would be no layoffs.”

All told, the total employee headcount will be 145.

Jay Sandak, who founded the Sandak Hennessey with three lawyers in 1990, said joining forces with Carmody will benefit the Stamford firm’s clients.

“We have broadened the service that we can offer our clients with a deeper bench of trial lawyers and with the sophisticated financial and business transactions practice of the Carmody attorneys,” Sandak said. “At the same time, working with Carmody attorneys will allow us to expand our practices statewide to better serve our current and former clients.”

Nationwide, merger activity was brisk in 2013, with 78 law firm mergers recorded, breaking a past record of 70 set in 2008, according to The Am Law Daily, which is owned by the same corporate parent as the Connecticut Law Tribune.

In Connecticut, 2013 saw a number of lateral hires of entire practice groups, including Pullman & Comley’s move to hire of all but one member of the Hartford firm Sullivan Schoen Campane & Connon.

In another Connecticut merger, Jorden Burt, a class action defense boutique with an office in Simsbury, announced in November it was joining forces with a larger international litigation firm. The just-complete merger between 70-lawyer Jorden Burt and Carlton Fields created a new 370-lawyer firm called Carlton Fields Jorden Burt. With its headquarters in Tampa, one of the new firm’s 10 offices will be moving from Simsbury to Hartford.