This Milwaukee firm has fast outpaced some struggling mega-firms on both coasts. Through targeted acquisitions and nimble maneuvering, they have positioned themselves for solid profitability even through difficult times. With modest encroachments into a diverse range of practice groups, Foley and Lardner impacts both national and local legal markets.
Snatching up key partners, buying out firms, and coaxing new clients allows them to navigate the shallows while others founder.
The Secret of Foley & Lardner's Continuing Success
The unprecedented boom of the late 1990's was met with the recession in late 2001. Some firms went through a period of dramatic hiring on all levels during 1999-2000 to compensate for a perceived or actual increase in workflow coming from the booming technology and dot-com industries. A number of these firms found themselves overstaffed as the economy turned downward and as their dot-com clients stumbled and fell. Every firm tells a different story about surviving the recent recession. Foley & Lardner's success story stands in sharp relief against the cutbacks and disappointments at other firms, and their unique growth strategy may explain this phenomenon.
Foley & Lardner is an international law firm with offices in Madison and Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Detroit, Michigan; Denver, Colorado; Washington, D.C., Jacksonville, Orlando, Tallahassee, Tampa and West Palm Beach, Florida; Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Diego and San Francisco, California; Chicago, Illinois; and Brussels, Belgium. Considering its prominence nationwide, Foley & Lardner's profile is unusual: being based in the mid-west, with offices in both major legal markets and smaller markets across the country, with the notable exclusion of New York.
Foley & Lardner's expansion beginning in 2000 up through today has positioned the firm as one of the nation's most prominent, and has secured Foley & Lardner's success and profitability even during the recession. With critical acquisitions across a range of practice areas, and in virtually every city in which they are located, Foley & Lardner expanded without overreaching.
In the first quarter of 2001, Foley & Lardner acquired Hopkins & Sutter, a Chicago firm, which nearly doubled the size of the firm's Chicago office and added several lawyers in Washington, D.C. The Hopkins & Sutter acquisition made Foley & Lardner a much more significant presence in the Chicago market, where the firm continues to thrive. The acquisition also made Foley & Lardner the most significant presence in terms of quanitity of attorneys located in the mid-west. This was arguably the largest single acquisition for Foley & Lardner, but certainly not the only one.
At the same time, Foley & Lardner opened their Detroit office, laterally hiring nearly 20 attorneys in a short time. With these acquisitions, Foley & Lardner was able to capture important clients in the automotive industry. Foley also added 10 attorneys in San Francisco, which was followed by a major partner acquisition in Los Angeles that enriched their corporate and securities capabilities on the West Coast. In Washington, D.C., the acquisition of Freedman, Levy, Kroll & Simonds rounded out that office's corporate practice, and was a welcome addition to the litigation and intellectual property powerhouse. Single partner hiring in various offices throughout the United States, designed to expand or develop niche practice areas, supplemented these bold strokes.
Standing alone, any one of these acquisitions might be termed fairly modest, especially in an era of the 'mega-merger.' However, conservative and carefully executed expansion enabled Foley & Lardner to develop in exactly the markets and practice areas they wanted, which has had the effect of an overall increase in the firm's capability, presence, and prestige. Since that time, Foley & Lardner has won substantial kudos in the areas of associate satisfaction, including ranking first among Chicago and Milwaukee summer associate classes. The firm is recognized for its representation of biotech industries in patent law. Individual partners have been awarded in their individual cities, and one partner was recently recognized as one of the Orlando Business Journal's Women Who Mean Business.
All indicators point to Foley & Lardner's continued success. And, through a conservative and focused acquisition strategy, Foley & Lardner emerges from the recession stronger than ever. They offer an impressive and constructive case study for the growth of national and international law firms that may ultimately be more 'recession proof' than those of their larger competitors.
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