Merger talks that began last year between local legal heavyweight Ice Miller LLP and a Louisville-based law firm reportedly
have broken down, putting an end to a deal that was expected to close by the end of the year.
Citing an unnamed source at Greenebaum Doll & McDonald PLLC, Business First of Louisville reported Friday that months of negotiations between the firms had ended. The source said it became apparent within the past month that the merger would not move forward.
IBJ first reported in December that the two firms were poised to tie the knot. Ice Miller hasn’t confirmed or denied the potential partnership and has repeatedly declined to discuss the negotiations.
In an e-mailed statement to IBJ this morning, Ice Miller Managing Partner Byron Myers said the firm constantly is evaluating “growth opportunities” to better serve clients.
“As a matter of policy, we do not publicly comment on specific discussions or opportunities until such time as it becomes appropriate to do so,” he said in the e-mail.
The source told Business First that Greenebaum Doll partners became concerned that aligning with a larger firm such as Ice Miller might result in a rate increase at a time when many clients already are struggling because of the recession.
Ice Miller has 258 attorneys, compared with Greenebaum Doll’s 180. Both practices are venerable stalwarts in their respective cities—Ice Miller was founded in 1910 and Greenebaum Doll in 1952.
Sources have told IBJ that operational differences between the two—namely in the way the firms compensate partners—were taking longer than expected to sort out and may have helped stall a deal. A
failed merger with Ice Miller would represent the second time in the past few years that Greenebaum Doll could not close a deal. The firm had been in negotiations with St. Louis-based Thompson Coburn LLP about four years ago.
In addition to Louisville, Greenebaum Doll has Kentucky offices in Covington, Frankfort and Lexington, as well as in Cincinnati and in Nashville, Tenn.
Ice Miller has 227 lawyers in Indianapolis, ranking it as the third-largest in the city, according to the most recent statistics submitted by the firm to IBJ. It has 31 lawyers in Chicago, the Chicago suburb of Lisle and Washington, D.C.
Overall, law firm merger activity slowed during the second quarter, according to Chicago-based legal consultancy Hildebrandt. Nine mergers and acquisitions were completed compared with 14 in the second quarter of 2008.
Ice Miller may have an incentive to become larger to help offset its traditionally lucrative bond work, which is struggling amid the challenging economy. Legislation passed by the General Assembly last year that puts big-ticket school construction projects to a referendum hasn’t helped, either. Those projects are typically funded by bond sales.