Legal

Whirlwind Market: Winds of Change Sweep Across Kansas City’s Legal Landscape, Pt. 1

Welcome to Texas: Husch Blackwell Merges with Brown McCarroll

Mergers, movement and expansion – these terms could easily describe Kansas City’s business scene, but perhaps more accurately represent its changing legal landscape in recent years. Responding to and benefiting from an economic rebound, Kansas City’s legal field is growing alongside the nation’s recovery, both around the country and around the globe. Closer to home, industry observers are watching as Kansas City law firms take advantage of the opportunities through mergers, expansion and entrepreneurial beginnings.

Story by Susan Fotovich McCabe

Welcome to Texas

No stranger to past mergers, Husch Blackwell LLP inked the deal on its third merger in June. Combining with Austin, Tex.-based Brown McCarroll, the merger adds significant depth to the firm’s health care, real estate and energy practices and expands its offices to Austin, Dallas and Houston.

“Husch Blackwell has a super regional presence, and if you want to be a leader, you have to be open to lateral growth,” says Husch Blackwell Chairman Maurice Watson. “Texas, in particular, is a very mature legal market and very hostile to new firms. It’s tough to enter that market unless you come in with a certain number of born and bred Texas lawyers.”

Read Part 2: Making Room for More   |   Read Part 3: Going It Alone

Husch Blackwell Chairman Maurice Watson

With the addition of Brown McCarroll, the new Husch Blackwell is an industry-focused, full-service litigation and business law firm with locations in 16 U.S. cities and in London. The firm represents national and global leaders in major industries that include:

  • 1. energy and natural resources
  • 2. financial services
  • 3. food and agribusiness
  • 4. health care, life sciences and pharmaceuticals
  • 5. industrial production, technology and transportation

Based on 2012 revenues reported earlier this year, the combined firm would have achieved annual revenues of $319 million, bringing it to a tie at No. 94 on the 2013 Am Law 100 list of highest revenue-generating law firms.

While many firms combine forces to establish a business foothold in a new market, Watson says the Brown McCarroll merger satisfied existing client needs without the expectation of new business. However, Watson admits that Brown McCarroll’s expertise in the energy sector now offers Husch Blackwell “limitless opportunities.” Partnering with Brown McCarroll “was serendipity,” Watson explains, once the two firms’ consistent culture and growth strategy became apparent.

A merger is a little like “a personal relationship or marriage,” Watson says, admitting it’s a challenge. “It takes work and understanding of the culture from both firms. It’s give and take. The greatest task is to integrate people, which often requires an investment of time and resources.”

Likewise, Brown McCarroll’s strength in health care and energy aligned perfectly with three of Husch Blackwell’s strongest strategic industry groups. According to Watson, Texas lawyers are highly regarded nationally by the health care industry. Similarly, Brown McCarroll now has a broader geographic platform and range of services from which to serve its clients, particularly in the area of Husch Blackwell’s real estate expertise.

The Kansas City firm became Husch Blackwell in 2008, when local Blackwell Sanders merged with St. Louis-based Husch & Eppenberger and later with Chicago-based Welsh & Katz. A merger is a little like “a personal relationship or marriage,” Watson says, admitting it’s a challenge. “It takes work and understanding of the culture from both firms. It’s give and take. The greatest task is to integrate people, which often requires an investment of time and resources.”

Of course, there’s consideration of the economics of the two firms’ compatibility in terms of profitability, utilization types of clients, substantial business conflicts and pro bono work. “We have a culture that embraces growth and expansion,” Watson says. “Unfortunately, there is limitation to our growth in our existing market, so we have to look to new markets. We’re not afraid to admit that part of our strategy to thrive and survive going forward.”

Read Part 2: Making Room for More    |    Read Part 3: Going It Alone