While law firms combinations continue to occur at a record-setting pace across the country, many Big Law outfits are sidestepping larger deals in favor of minor acquisitions.

Among those firms looking to bolster practice groups by absorbing smaller shops are Dykema Gossett and Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith, which have expanded their offices in Minneapolis and Las Vegas, respectively.

Dykema has picked up two lawyers from Moore & Hansen, a three-lawyer IP shop based in the Twin Cities. Moore & Hansen president Robert Freed and managing partner Conrad Hansen have both come aboard as senior counsel for Dykema’s IP practice in Minneapolis, although their new firm does not consider the move to be a merger.

First established as the Williamson Law Firm in 1885, Moore & Hansen was Minneapolis’ first copyright, patent and trademark law firm. But with Freed and Hansen joining Dykema, which first entered the Minneapolis legal market in 2013, the 133-year-old firm will wind down its operations. (Moore & Hansen’s Malcolm Moore is now retired.)

“In a way, it’s a shame because it’s the oldest patent law firm in Minnesota,” said Freed, who joined Moore & Hansen in 1997 from Minneapolis-based IP boutique Merchant & Gould.

Over the last century, Moore & Hansen represented clients on their patent, copyright and trademark work, including Herbert Sellner, inventor of the Tilt-A-Whirl theme park ride. Led by Freed and Hansen, the firm has worked primarily with smaller, closely held companies, on trade secret protection, as well as IP asset management, licensing, patent and trademark procurement and litigation.

But as a boutique, Freed said Moore & Hansen faced a lot of expenses going forward, much more than he and Hansen wanted to take on themselves. Freed used Eagan, Minnesota-based legal recruiter John O’Neill in making the move to Dykema, where he hopes to continue serving his clients, as well as work with and mentor some of the junior talent at the 378-lawyer firm.

“Adding these accomplished IP attorneys to our ranks deepens our firmwide bench and enriches our ability to provide IP counsel to all of our clients,” said a statement announcing the hire of Freed and Hansen from Dykema’s IP transactional practice head Reed Heimbecher, who in January was named managing partner of the firm’s office in Minneapolis, which now has 14 lawyers“In addition to their legal proficiency, [Freed] and [Hansen] are well-respected in the Minneapolis community, and their knowledge will be invaluable to our clients and our firm.”

Minneapolis has been one of the most active markets for law firm expansions and mergers. Milwaukee-based Quarles & Brady set up shop in the city last month, while Philadelphia-based Ballard Spahr absorbed leading Minnesota firm Lindquist & Vennum on Jan. 1 of this year. IP-centric firms, in particular, have been a frequent focus for legal market consolidation.

“Minnesota is a center for legal services in the upper Midwest,” said Freed, citing some of Minneapolis’ leading companies, such as 3M Co. and St. Jude Medical Inc., the latter of which was acquired in a $25 billion deal completed last year by Dykema client Abbott Laboratories.

Outside of large companies based in Minneapolis, the Twin Cities also offers strategic access to smaller clients in Minnesota, the Dakotas and northern Wisconsin, Freed said.

In the southwest, California-based Lewis Brisbois has bolted on Kelley Blatnik’s former general liability-focused shop in Las Vegas. Blatnik, who specializes in contract work for law firms, is now listed as a partner at Lewis Brisbois in Sin City. She did not return a request for comment about her move to the Am Law 100 firm, which happened within the last month.

The recent additions by Lewis Brisbois and Dykema are part of an ongoing trend in Big Law that has smaller, regional shops being absorbed by larger, national firms. A recent report by legal consulting firm Fairfax Associates saw law firms complete a record 56 mergers since Jan. 1, with the majority of those deals involving firms with five to 25 lawyers.

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