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Fennemore Merges to Add 56 Lawyers, Nearing 200 Biggest (1)

June 14, 2022, 4:15 PMUpdated: June 14, 2022, 5:41 PM

Fennemore Craig, a fast-expanding regional law firm in the western US, is merging with with Wendel Rosen in California, placing the new operation close to the 200 biggest in the country.

The combination fills a geographic gap in northern California for Fennemore, which has lawyers in the southern and central parts of the state. Wendel Rosen has offices in Oakland, Walnut Creek and Modesto.

“You have to actively seek out opportunities to respond to those changes you see on the horizon, and when you find them, you have to seize the opportunity,” said James Goodnow, Fennemore’s chief executive officer.

The merger gives the Arizona-founded firm 250 lawyers and likely enough revenue to crack the AmLaw 200 next year, Goodnow said. The cut-off for making the top 200 last year was just above $103 million in revenue.

The deal marks Fennemore’s fourth major addition in the past two years. It hired roughly 50 lawyers and legal professionals from Gresham Savage Nolan & Tilden in California earlier this year and added seven-lawyer litigation boutique Reilly in Denver last year. In 2020, it merged with California firm Dowling Aaron.

The merger is of one of the five biggest this year by size of acquired firms, said Lisa Smith, principal at Fairfax Associates, which tracks tie-ups. The Fennemore announcement comes a day after Davis Wright Tremaine said it’s adding 44 lawyers through a combination with McGonigle, a financial services boutique.

While second-quarter data isn’t final, mergers have ticked up from the slow start to the year, Smith said. There were 14 completed mergers in the first three months of the year, down from an average of 22 during that period over the past 10 years, Fairfax data show.

“The competition for talent is driving some of this uptick, as some firms have found it difficult to compete for talent, or have themselves lost good talent,” Smith said.

Fennemore is open to other deals that would expand the firm’s ability to deliver more efficient legal services, Goodnow said.

“What you’ve seen happening with Wendel Rosen and our growth over the past two years is us putting that mantra into action,” he said.

Goodnow, who recently completed a thesis on the changing legal market for a University of Cambridge Judge Business School class, said the firm will turn its attention to integrating the 56 lawyers at Wendel Rosen.

Both firms have practice groups in business and finance, real estate, mergers and acquisitions, and trusts and estates work, among other area practices, he said.

“These are areas we’re strong in and we want to gain additional bench strength,” Goodnow said.

(Adds analyst comment starting in sixth paragraph.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Roy Strom in Chicago at rstrom@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Chris Opfer at copfer@bloomberglaw.com; John Hughes at jhughes@bloombergindustry.com