January 20, 2012

Clients and Culture Are Top Priorities in Law Firm Mergers, Say Froehle, Green

When Baker & Daniels combined with Faegre & Benson to form Faegre Baker Daniels in January 2012, firm leadership worked to communicate with clients and guarantee compatible cultures between the two firms, Indiana Lawyer reported in the article "Prioritizing Increases Ease of Mergers."

Internal harmony and ensuring that clients feel their needs are being met are two critical elements of any merger, according to Melanie Green, chief client development officer for Faegre Baker Daniels.

"Because law is a people business," she told Indiana Lawyer.

Green said that only a small group of upper-level management was involved in the firms' initial merger talks. When the firms first acknowledged publicly that they were discussing a merger, they released few other details, but management asked lawyers at both firms to call clients personally and let them know what was happening.

"So we took a pretty one-to-one approach," Green said.

The decision to combine was made after Baker & Daniels spent a lot of time thinking about what it wanted in a merger, said Tom Froehle, chief operating partner for Faegre Baker Daniels. Faegre & Benson was seen as a good match because of complementary practice areas and equal commitment to diversity, Indiana Lawyer reported.

In advance of the merger, firm management spent significant time traveling and meeting with counterparts at Faegre & Benson to determine whether they agreed on general management strategies. Froehle said that even when firms seem to have similar cultures, the true test of compatibility is how people get along face-to-face.

"That really is important — that personal interaction and spending a couple of days with people who you are likely to be working with," Froehle said.

Aware that word spreads quickly, firm leadership worked to manage the news after agreeing to the merger and informing employees.

"We knew that with two firms making those announcements internally, that would quickly spread to other audiences," Green told Indiana Lawyer.

When Faegre Baker Daniels launched, the firm had new business cards, letterhead and a website ready to go on the date the merger became effective.

"We definitely had the benefit of some time to get those things done…but that's not a general way of how all combinations come together," Green said. Read more.

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