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Law firm Taft to merge with Chicago practice

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The Midwest legal firm Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP, which employs about 100 attorneys in Indianapolis, plans to enter its largest market yet by merging with a 70-lawyer Chicago firm.

Shefsky & Froelich of Chicago will become part of the Taft group of affiliated offices around the Midwest that includes locations in Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Dayton and northern Kentucky, as well as a branch office in Phoenix.

Robert J. Hicks, partner-in-charge of Taft’s Indianapolis office and a member of the firm’s executive committee, said the merger effective Jan. 2 will bring Taft to nearly 400 attorneys firm-wide, billing in the range of $175 million to $200 million annually.

With about 100 attorneys in the Indianapolis office, Taft is the seventh-largest law firm in the city, according to IBJ research.

“Being in Chicago with a very sophisticated presence with deep roots has been on our agenda for a long time,” Hicks said Tuesday. Taft considered nearly 10 firms in Chicago for close to two years and interviewed five or six it considered possible merger partners before Taft and Shefsky agreed to the partnership.

“They have a practice which matches ours beautifully and has very quality people,” Hicks said.

Founded in 1970, Shefsky has built a national reputation in gaming law, Hicks said. The firm’s litigation practice, appellate practice and corporate and real estate practices are outstanding, he added, often “fighting out of their weight class” against much larger firms in the market.

Hicks said under the Taft model, Shefsky’s current management team in Chicago will  remain in place. Some of Shefsky’s executives will join Taft’s executive committee, and some key Shefsky personnel, including finance and IT staffers, will take on more regional, firm-wide roles. The firm will begin operating under the Taft name.

Hicks said he and Taft managing partner Tom Terp from the Cincinnati office will be spending a considerable amount of time in the Chicago office, but he stressed, “The local guys will manage the office. We’re not going to terminate any employees.”

Taft’s decentralized structure was a key selling point for Shefsky, Hicks said. As Taft was looking at the firm, so were other, much larger potential suitors.

“They felt like those would have been a takeover,” Hicks said. “This is very much a partnership and a merger.”

In a statement announcing the merger, Cezar “Cid” M. Froelich of Shefsky & Froelich praised the partnership.

“With this merger, we will strengthen our core practices, but we also will be able to provide many services and cover areas of expertise that we just couldn’t before with a firm of 70 lawyers,” Froelich said. “Best of all, we will not change our client service culture and we will maintain our direct relationships with them. Our respective firm cultures and internal structures align remarkably well. We will be able to provide our clients with all the benefits of a large firm, while maintaining our historical fee structure and client attentiveness of a midsized firm.”

Hicks said the merger also aligns with Taft’s vision.

“Our goal is to have a substantial presence but stay in the Midwest and be in all the significant centers of the Midwest,” he said. “We want to have a Midwestern rate structure with the quality of one of the firms on the coasts.”

Taft was founded in 1885. The firm entered the Indianapolis market in 2008 when the 64 partners of Sommer Barnard agreed to a merger.

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