Archer & Greiner has announced plans to open an office in Monmouth County with the addition of the three principals from area firm Nelson Supko & Hanlon, effective Oct. 1.

The office, located in Shrewsbury, N.J., will be managed by Nelson Supko managing partner Brian Nelson, who will join Archer & Greiner as a partner.

Nelson will be accompanied by Nelson Supko partners Michael Supko, who is also joining Archer & Greiner as a partner, and Christine Giordano Hanlon, who will join as of counsel.

According to Nelson, his firm’s staff will also be joining Archer & Greiner, but Nelson Supko of counsel Dana Citron and associate Christopher Buckley will not.

Archer & Greiner president Christopher Gibson says that while there are several good law firms in the region comprising Monmouth and Ocean counties, the only one of any real size is Red Bank-based Giordano Halleran & Ciesla, which has just under 60 attorneys.

Gibson says he thought his firm, with more than 200 lawyers, could bring a depth of experience and a range of practice areas that is lacking in the region.

The Nelson Supko deal is the third merger Archer & Greiner has been involved in the past three years.

In January 2009, the firm merged with 26-lawyer Philadelphia firm Pelino & Lentz.

It followed that up in April 2011 by merging with 31-lawyer Hackensack-based firm Herten Burstein Sheridan Cevasco Bottinelli Litt & Harz.

Gibson says absorbing a small practice like Nelson Supko was a simpler process than those other mergers because it took much less time to perform the necessary due diligence.

And while all mergers involve some risk, Gibson says Archer & Greiner has found success even during the recession by ensuring that the firms they join forces with meet a few basic requirements.

“The truth is that since this recession, we’ve grown by about a third,” he says. “During these downtimes we’ve been doing fairly well and, while you always have to be wary of pursuing the wrong deal, basically if the numbers work, and the culture of the people work, everything more or less falls into place.”

Gibson says that while there’s no single industry in Monmouth County that his firm is targeting, he believes Archer & Greiner is well-suited to serve the region’s health care systems and that the “substantial wealth” found in several parts of the county could generate work for the firm’s trusts and estates practice.

According to Gibson, Archer & Greiner also does some work for government entities, which is one of the focal points of the Nelson Supko group’s practice.

Gibson says he was put in touch with Nelson by a colleague a little over a year ago and was impressed by his practice, describing him as a “true entrepreneur” who is “very well-connected.”

Nelson, meanwhile, says that while he had been previously approached by some other large firms about merging, the combination of Archer & Greiner’s reputation, depth and culture were what sold him on the idea.

In addition, Nelson says, Archer & Greiner’s rate structure was much more compatible with Nelson Supko’s than some of the New York market firms that had expressed an interest in merging.

More generally, Nelson says he and his partners were attracted to the idea of joining up with a larger firm as a means of expanding the depth and breadth of services they can offer their clients.

“It’s very nice to have those resources at the ready,” Nelson says.

Another positive, he notes, is the increased time and attention he’ll have to devote to his practice now that many of his previous administrative duties, such as accounting and information technology, will now be handled by Archer & Greiner’s staff.

“I’ll be able to focus on servicing clients rather than trying to make sure the server is running properly,” Nelson says.

Nelson concentrates his practice on representing governmental entities and corporations that do business in New Jersey. Supko, meanwhile, focuses mainly on real estate, land use and planning, affordable housing, municipal law, residential and commercial tax appeals, corporate law and bankruptcy. Hanlon’s practice mostly involves municipal law and civil litigation.

Nelson says his firm has actually benefited in recent years from the economic downturn, having been able to draw in clients who became disenfranchised with firms that were charging New York market rates.

“Businesses are scrutinizing bills and costs more than in the past,” he says.
 According to Nelson, while his firm will need to make some adjustments to its rate structure post-merger, they will be relatively minor.

He also notes that while client conflicts are sometimes an issue when two firms join forces, they were not in this case.

Gibson says that while there is some client overlap between Archer & Greiner and Nelson Supko, the group is mostly coming to the firm with new clients.

Nelson says the group will bring its entire client book over to Archer & Greiner.

According to Nelson, his firm’s clients were “very happy” about the move, particularly since a number of them had previously expressed hopes that Nelson Supko would expand the range of services it offers.

Nelson says he believes 90 percent of his firm’s new business comes from existing clients so he’s pleased that his group will now have the capacity to handle larger and more diverse matters.

The Monmouth County location will mark the ninth office for Archer & Greiner.

In addition to Haddonfield, the firm currently has New Jersey offices in Hackensack, Princeton and Flemington.

The firm also has locations in Philadelphia and New York City, as well as in Wilmington and Georgetown, Del.