It’s been a year since Ballard Spahr completed its merger with Lindquist & Vennum, a midsize firm based in Minneapolis. And now that the acquired group has settled into the larger, Philadelphia-based firm, it has become more integrated in practice leadership as well.
Peter Michaud is the new chair of Ballard Spahr’s business and finance department, as of Jan. 1. Michaud had been a partner at Lindquist & Vennum, and last year served as managing partner of Ballard Spahr’s post-merger Minneapolis office—now the firm’s second-largest after Philadelphia.
Michaud, a private equity lawyer, takes over for Brian Pinheiro, who will still lead the firm’s employee benefits and executive compensation group, and serve as business and finance vice chair. Pinheiro and Michaud were both central to the merger discussions that took place in 2017.
“This was exciting for [firm chairman] Mark Stewart to pick someone not based in Philly to show that our firm really is a national firm,” Michaud said. “This is another step toward integrating the firm.”
The combination added well over 100 lawyers to Ballard Spahr. (Lindquist & Vennum had 140 lawyers before the merger, but some departed before the combination finalized.) The merger gave Ballard Spahr a presence in Minneapolis and Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and expanded its office in Denver.
In 2018, the firm saw 10 lawyers defect from the Minneapolis office, eight in Denver and one in Sioux Falls, according to ALM Intelligence’s Legal Compass. But the firm also made additions in those locations. Of its 64 hires in 2018, according to Legal Compass, seven were in Minneapolis, six in Denver and two in Sioux Falls.
“We lost just a few people early on, but everybody who we were really looking to have stay has stayed,” Pinheiro said.
Retention in the business and finance practice, where Lindquist & Vennum added 60 lawyers to Ballard Spahr, has been especially strong, according to Michaud. “I don’t think anyone has left,” he said.
Between the announcement of the Lindquist deal and its effective date, Ballard Spahr closed another acquisition—one smaller in number, but significant for the firm’s media practice. The firm brought on 25 lawyers from media boutique Levine Sullivan Koch & Schulz, most of whom remain with Ballard Spahr now.
Before that, the firm hadn’t completed a merger since 2013, when it absorbed a white-collar and securities litigation boutique in New York. It had taken a step back from such combinations, chairman Mark Stewart said in an interview just after announcing the Levine Sullivan deal. But growing through lateral hires of “one here, and two there,” became a time-consuming strategy, he said.
“There was a change in mindset,” Stewart said. “When the Lindquist deal appeared, I was much more open to hearing about a big acquisition.”
More Midwest Growth to Come
Pinheiro said Ballard Spahr offered the Lindquist & Vennum lawyers greater depth in litigation, including environmental and employee benefits work. Michaud agreed.
“For us, it’s having so much added depth in different practice areas,” Michaud said. “What Ballard brought to us was having all of these other experts in different areas to expand and provide different services to all of our clients.”
As for Ballard Spahr’s gains, both Michaud and Pinheiro pointed to the business and finance practice, and specifically mergers and acquisitions.
“We set out a few years ago to grow the M&A practice, and the Lindquist acquisition was the culmination of that,” Pinheiro said. The firm’s emerging growth practice has also taken off in the process, he noted.
With Michaud taking on a new role, litigation partner Karla Vehrs will take over as Minneapolis office managing partner. With so many lawyers now based in Minneapolis, Pinheiro said, the firm will look to push for more growth in the Twin Cities region.
Expanding the business and finance practice is top-of-mind as well, Michaud said, and not just in Minneapolis. He said he plans to spend a lot of time traveling to the firm’s other offices, especially Philadelphia.
“My hope is to have us all continue to get to know each other, know what we do,” he said. ”We are always looking for talent. We have a line right now on talent in several different cities.”