BREAKING: Locke Reynolds OKs merger

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Partners of the Indianapolis law firm of Locke Reynolds LLP late yesterday approved a merger with Frost Brown Todd LLC, a larger firm based in Louisville.

The deal will be effective Jan. 5, said Locke Reynolds partner Jim Dimos, emphasizing the merger will allow the firm to better serve its clients.

“We identified 10 regional firms we thought would be a good fit,” Dimos said. “Frost Brown was at the top of the list.”

Locke Reynolds will lose its name, as did Sommer Barnard PC when it became part of Cincinnati-based Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP in May.

Founded in 1917, Locke Reynolds has 79 lawyers at Capital Center downtown, making it the eighth-largest firm in the city. It has four attorneys in Fort Wayne.

With 370 lawyers in nine locations, Frost Brown is among the 150 largest firms in the country, according to the National Law Journal.

Besides Louisville, it has Kentucky offices in Florence and Lexington. Ohio locations are in Cincinnati, Columbus and Middletown. It also has offices in Charleston, W.V., and Nashville, Tenn. Frost Brown’s lone Indiana presence is in New Albany, across the Ohio River from Louisville.

This is the second major Indianapolis law firm merger to become public this week. On Tuesday, IBJ reported that Ice Miller LLP, the city’s largest law firm, plans to merge with Greenebaum Doll & McDonald PLLC, another Louisville firm. Plans are still being finalized, but the deal is set to become official Jan. 1, according to sources familiar with the deal. It is unclear which firm will absorb the other, or whether the Ice Miller name will remain.

Locke Reynolds instigated the merger discussions with Frost Brown, and they gained momentum earlier this year, Dimos said. Locke Reynolds is financially stable, he said, stressing that Frost Brown wouldn’t be interested in acquiring a troubled practice.

The Indianapolis firm maintains several practice areas, but its corporate defense work, particularly for Ford Motor Co., has gained the most recognition.

Partner Kevin Schiferl helped Locke Reynolds win several verdicts involving personal injury claims against the automaker. The National Law Journal’s list of the top-10 defense wins of 2005 included a case argued by Schiferl.

He successfully represented Ford during a week-long trial in which the parents of a 2-year-old girl demanded $31 million for her death. The toddler died in July 2004 after getting her neck caught in the power window of a Ford pickup.

For several years Locke Reynolds was the only firm in the city to boast a female managing partner. Julia Blackwell Gelinas stepped down from the position in 2005.

However, a string of departures rattled the firm early in the decade. Nine members of its labor and employment group left in May 2000 to help launch a local office for Atlanta-based Ogletree Deakins Nash Smoak & Stewart PC. Later, two veteran partners with experience litigating worker’s compensation cases and several members of its health care practice also defected.

Nelson Alexander, Locke Reynolds’ current managing partner, will serve as member-in-charge of Frost Brown’s Indianapolis office.

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