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UPDATE: Locke Reynolds sought previous mergers

December 4, 2008
Locke Reynolds LLP's merger with Frost Brown Todd LLC will become final Jan. 5. But it's not the first time the firm has sought a marriage.

Locke Reynolds Partner Jim Dimos acknowledged in an interview with IBJ that in the past few years the Indianapolis law firm has had conversations with several local rivals, without success.

So, last year at a retreat, partners came up with three possible solutions to growing the firm. Strategies included merging with a smaller local firm, a firm similar in size, or a larger, regional player.

The firm engaged national law consultant Hildebrandt International, and the New Jersey company ultimately identified 10 regional firms as targets. Cincinnati-based Frost Brown emerged as the best fit.

A simple phone call placed by a Locke Reynolds partner to Frost Brown instigated the merger between the two firms.

"When [Frost Brown Todd] looked at the deal," Dimos said, "they thought not being in Indianapolis was a hole in their strategy."

With 79 lawyers, Locke Reynolds is the eighth-largest law firm in the Indianapolis area but it has just one outside location, in Fort Wayne. As clients with multiple locations increasingly get counsel from just one firm, law offices are consolidating to increase their reach and remain competitive.

Frost Brown has equally large presences in Louisville and Cincinnati and has an Indiana office in New Albany. It has six other locations spread mostly throughout Kentucky and Ohio and has a total of 370 lawyers. It is among the largest 150 firms in the country, according to the National Law Journal.

But what Locke Reynolds gains in numbers Indianapolis loses in another homegrown law firm. Founded in 1917, Locke Reynolds is among the oldest firms in the city.

Law mergers are becoming increasingly common. Earlier this year, Sommer Barnard was gobbled up by Cincinnati-based Taft Stettinius & Hollister. And a deal between Ice Miller LLP and Louisville-based Greenebaum Doll & McDonald PLLC is expected to be consummated this month.

Locke Reynolds has a strong litigation practice but lacks in other areas, Dimos said. That's where the strength of Frost Brown should be felt the most.

"It will allow us to have even greater resources to provide our clients," he said. "I believe that we will be as competitive in this marketplace as any law firm in the country."
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