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Fennemore Craig Scoops California Firm in Rare 2020 Legal Merger

July 28, 2020, 8:57 PM

Fennemore Craig will soon combine with California’s Dowling Aaron in a slow year for law firm mergers.

Fennemore Craig Dowling Aaron will operate in California with approximately 350 lawyers and staff, and offices in 10 cities across the western U.S., according to Fennemore Craig.

The merger will go live on Oct. 1 and has been approved by shareholders and directors from both firms.

Fennemore Craig CEO James Goodnow called the deal a “slam dunk” for both firms.

“Overnight we’ll be able to serve all of our clients in ways we never could.” said Goodnow, who’ll lead the combined firm.

The news comes amid a near 10-year low in law firm mergers. Only seven firm combinations were completed in the second quarter of this year, the fewest number recorded since the immediate aftermath of the Great Recession.

The two firms began merger discussions last fall and were undeterred by the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic, Goodnow said.

“The knee-jerk reaction of lawyers and law firms when you have any sort of economic crisis is to retreat and take a defensive economic posture,” said Goodnow. “I think that is exactly the wrong strategy to pursue.”

The merger extends Fennemore Craig’s geographic footprint into Central California, where Dowling Aaron has four offices. The region is a water hub for the western U.S. and one of the largest food-producing regions in the world. Two of Fennemore Craig’s largest practice areas are agribusiness and water law, according to Goodnow.

“At a point in our working lives where good news can sometimes be hard to find, I’m happy to announce this merger as a signal to our clients that we’re committed to them today and into the future,” Dowling Aaron’s president Leigh Burnside said in a statement. Burnside will join the new firm’s management committee.

Richard Aaron, named partner and chair of Dowling Aaron, will move into a senior position at the new firm. Current Fennemore Craig board of directors chair Sarah Strunk will continue on as chair of the new firm.

To contact the reporter on this story: Stephanie Russell-Kraft in New York at srussellkraft@gmail.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rebekah Mintzer at rmintzer@bloomberglaw.com; John Crawley at jcrawley@bloomberglaw.com

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