Philadelphia-based Dilworth Paxson has acquired New Jersey’s Smith, Stratton, Wise, Heher & Brennan, adding a presence in Princeton, New Jersey, and New York.
The firms said Smith Stratton brought all 10 of its lawyers, as well as staff and office space in three cities, to Dilworth Paxson.
Dilworth Paxson was seeking a physical presence along the corridor between New York and Philadelphia, CEO Ajay Raju said, given an increasing number of pharmaceutical clients in that area.
“We were quickly reminded that we need a beachhead there,” Raju said. “We may be geography-agnostic, but if we have clients who say we need you here … we’ll be there.”
Smith Stratton had been seeking a merger partner, said managing partner Thomas Schorr. The firm focuses largely on high-stakes insurance and reinsurance matters, he said, and will now be able to refer transactional and corporate matters to colleagues at Dilworth Paxson, he noted.
“We recognized that while we were [now] part of a larger firm, it was still not so large that we couldn’t be nimble and flexible in meeting our clients’ needs, both in the services we provide and how we bill for them,” Schorr said.
Smith Stratton also had offices in Philadelphia and New York, but Dilworth Paxson’s larger footprint will be especially helpful in Pennsylvania, Schorr said. Clients have responded positively so far, he said.
Raju said the addition to Dilworth Paxson “augments our already strong brand and reputation” in litigation. Revenue per lawyer at Smith Stratton is comparable to that of Dilworth Paxson, he said, and there are opportunities to keep work in the firm that it had previously outsourced. Raju said he also anticipates more additions in the market surrounding Princeton, and said clients in New York especially have wanted the firm to grow there.
Dilworth now has more than 110 lawyers, Raju said.
Increasing the firm’s geographic footprint marks a change in direction for Dilworth Paxson. The firm pared down its offices in recent years, closing its Washington, D.C., location in 2015, and choosing not to restaff offices in New York and Red Bank, New Jersey, when all the lawyers there left for other firms.
Raju joined the firm as CEO in 2014, vowing to innovate and shake up the traditional law firm model Dilworth Paxson had been following. Since he took the helm the firm has added a venture capital fund and an incubator, which, Raju said Tuesday, led to some of the client relationships that made entering Princeton desirable.
With regard to client relationships, “we want to be counsel, not just an institution of lawyers. That is where we’re doubling down,” he said.
Still, Raju said, that model has also led the firm to grow slowly.
“The bigger you get, the more dilution you have to suffer,” he said.