Wednesday, January 03, 2001

Taft, Stettinius extends reach

Merger with Cleveland group adds clout

By Jeff McKinney
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Taft, Stettinius & Hollister acquired the Cleveland law firm of Kelley, McCann & Livingston on Tuesday, expanding Taft's reach in northern Ohio and the state's most populous metropolitan area.

        The deal will allow Taft, Stettinius to pick up 34 lawyers, expand its existing four-lawyer Cleveland office and offer more municipal law to clients in Cincinnati and Columbus.

        The deal also comes as the prestigious Queen City law firm is going through a transition, including facing new challenges of leadership, new lines of businesses and obstacles in keeping its partnerships ranks growing.

        Taft lost more than a dozen partners — about 20 percent of its total — who have either retired or left within the last year, including two groups that formed their own firms.

        The foray into Cleveland comes after the 1999 invasion of Cincinnati by a major Cleveland law firm — Squire, Sanders & Dempsey — that hired away three Taft partners. Squire isn't the first large out-of-town firm to set up shop here, but it is the largest and probably the most aggressive.

        For established Cincinnati law firms, the Cleveland firm's presence has raised the competition for employees and clients by several notches.

        Terms of Tuesday's merger were not disclosed. The combined firm, which will keep the Taft name, will have about 185 lawyers with offices in Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus and Northern Kentucky.

        Thomas D. Heekin, managing partner at Taft, said the Cincinnati law firm has experienced increased demand from clients at the Cleveland office it opened in 1996. He said this merger will give it the best option to expand that office.

        Mr. Heekin said the deal will allow the Taft firm to offer clients of Kelley McCann expanded legal services, including antitrust, securities and intellectual property law. And Kelley, McCann will be able to offer more municipal law to clients of the Taft law firm in Cincinnati and Columbus.

        By merging the labor and employment law practices of both firms, the combination will become one of Ohio's most prominent law firms specializing in those areas.

        Kelley, McCann & Livingstone, founded in 1963, specializes in business litigation, education, real estate development and municipal law and has represented Fortune 500 companies. All of the firm's nearly 65 employees are expected to be retained.

        Founded in 1924, Taft, Stettinius & Hollister now has about 150 lawyers.


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