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Dann Pecar nabbed by Ohio law firm in merger

Scott Olson
March 2, 2010
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One of the city’s oldest law practices has been absorbed by a regional law firm based in Cleveland.

Effective Monday, Indianapolis-based Dann Pecar Newman & Kleiman PC became part of Benesch Friedlander Coplan & Aronoff LLP and changed its name to Benesch/Dann Pecar.

The firm's new moniker will be used locally for a transitional period of up to 18 months, before Dann Pecar ultimately is dropped altogether in favor of the Benesch name, said Jeff Abrams, Dann Pecar’s former managing partner. Abrams becomes a member of Benesch’s executive committee, taking the title of partner in charge of the Indianapolis office.

Founded in 1911, Dann Pecar has 29 lawyers and is the city’s 17th-largest law firm, according to IBJ statistics. It is located in the One American Square building.

Benesch was founded in 1938 and has 145 attorneys, 110 of whom are in Cleveland. It also has locations in Columbus, Ohio; Wilmington, Del.; White Plains, N.Y.; and Shanghai, China.

That range proved attractive to Dann Pecar, whose smaller size made it difficult to provide some legal services, Abrams said.

“We’ve had opportunities to obtain new clients and expand our work, but we didn’t have the skill set,” he said. “[Benesch has] a great amount of resources that we don’t have.”

Chief among them are Benesch’s health care and intellectual property practices, neither of which are among Dann Pecar’s strengths, Abrams said. Dann Pecar’s real estate work, however, was attractive to Benesch.

Leaders of Dan Pecar had been searching for a merger partner for a few years and had discussions with a handful of other firms before coming to terms with Benesch.

Two of the four firms Dann Pecar negotiated with are based in Indianapolis, said Abrams, who declined to name them.

“For whatever reasons, the others didn’t work,” he said. “But this one definitely became more and more inviting.”
 
Abrams acknowledged the past few years have been “a little challenging,” but he maintained the firm is profitable.

Benesch’s absorption of Dann Pecar allows it to continue its growth plans, Benesch Managing Partner Ira Kaplan said.

“Our strategic plan calls for growth in core practices, and Benesch and Dann Pecar match up very well in that regard,” he said. “It also is important to us to expand our Midwest presence, which provides us with broader reach and depth to better serve our clients.”

Meanwhile, one year short of reaching its 100-year milestone, Dann Pecar becomes the third Indianapolis firm in recent years to be swallowed by an out-of-state rival.

“This is more of the same, kind of the regional general practice firms realizing they have to grow to be competitive,” said Chuck Baldwin, managing partner of the local office of Ogletree Deakins Nash Smoak & Stewart PC.

The Atlanta-based Ogletree, which has 38 locations nationwide, entered Indianapolis in 2000.

Counting Dann Pecar, the last three Indianapolis firms to merge chose to hook up with Ohio rivals.  
 
In May 2008, Sommer Barnard PC became part of Cincinnati-based Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP.

Sommer Barnard was founded in 1969 and had 103 lawyers, making it the seventh-largest in the city, according to IBJ statistics.

Taft Stettinius, whose roots date to 1885, has 200 lawyers in Cincinnati. Its other Ohio offices are in Cleveland, Columbus and Dayton.

In December 2008, Locke Reynolds LLP, the city's eighth-largest firm, announced its 79 attorneys would join forces with Cincinnati-based Frost Brown Todd LLC’s roster of 370 spread among nine locations in five states.

The mergers signify a larger trend within the legal sector, as partners look to add more talent and offices to remain competitive. Nationally, the number of mergers and acquisitions had been rising for years, until the economy dampened activity last year.

The number of mergers and acquisitions consummated in 2009 totaled 53, a drop of 24 percent from the previous year, according to the Altman Weil Inc. consultancy in suburban Philadelphia.

Yet Altman expects to see more deals in 2010, “as those on hold pending 2009 year-end results are finalized.”  
 

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