Updated 1/3 at 12 p.m.
On Jan. 2, Mark Hinderks and Lowell Stortz, co-managing partners of the newly minted Stinson Leonard Street law firm, took a few moments to reflect on the whirl of the past 100 days.
Since announcing the merger of Kansas City-based Stinson and Minneapolis-based Leonard Street Deinard in mid-September, the two have worked to put together the pieces of those two firms to create a new, cohesive one.
By mid-afternoon on the second day of co-helming the new firm, both were encouraged that the groundwork to move ahead seems solid.
“I got here early this morning expecting there to be some issues, but I have not received a single phone call about anything, and that’s remarkable on any day, but particularly on a day like today,” Hinderks said.
The new firm has more than 520 attorneys practicing in 14 cities, mostly through a wide swath of the Midwest, but reaching as far east as Washington, D.C., and to the southwest in Phoenix. The newly merged entity is in the top 75 law firms in the U.S. as ranked by number of attorneys.
The Stinson Leonard Street merger came in a record year of such activity, with Altman Weil reporting 87 mergers and acquisitions announced through Dec. 20, 2013. That compares with 60 in both 2011 and 2012.
And while some mergers take six months or longer to complete, Stinson Leonard Street management put itself on a tight schedule, setting out to complete theirs in 100 days.
“What’s been surprising to me is how nicely it all came together in terms of committees and committee leadership and practice areas,” Stortz said. “The big challenge was not so much cultural but practical in bringing everything together in three months — our computer systems, our phones, our physical spaces and our staff did much of that with very little outside assistance.”
Hinderks added that he and Stortz worked hard to keep politics out of the process.
“What we discarded from the outset was some sort of division of leadership in some political fashion,” Hinderks said. “In each situation, we really tried to look at, ‘OK, where is the best leadership, who are the best people for the job?’ and it all went off surprisingly well.”
Looking ahead, both are said they are pleased with what has been accomplished thus far and remain cautiously optimistic.
“We’ve doubled our resources,” Hinderks said, “but we’ve doubled our challenges as well.”
“In each situation, we really tried to look at, ‘OK, where is the best leadership, who are the best people for the job?’”
Hinderks said those challenges remain much the same as before — attracting new clients as well as keeping and growing existing ones — only as a larger firm.
Back in September, when the merger was announced, Ed Wesemann, with the Savannah, Ga.-based global law firm consulting practice Edge International, noted that both Kansas City and Minneapolis offered little in the opportunity of organic growth, and thus a merger likely presented a logical growth avenue for both firms.
“I think that [the merger] probably supports their strategic aspirations,” Wesemann said at the time. “Both have a need to expand, and it’s very difficult to expand in their existing marketplaces.”
Hinderks says he anticipates the new firm will have revenues-per-attorney consistent with the same range that Stinson has announced in recent years, including $531,500 per attorney in 2012. Leonard Street Deinard historically has not revealed financial data.
The newly merged firm does not have a headquarters, opting instead to disburse management over its 14 locations. While Hinderks and Stortz share co-managing duties for the merged firm, Allison Murdock, deputy managing partner at Stinson, remains in that position.
Hinderks and Stortz, who have known each other professionally for more than 10 years, said merger discussions turned serious last spring and continued throughout the summer. Those talks reached a conclusion on the weekend of Sept. 21 when partners at the respective firms, voted overwhelmingly, Hinderks said at the time, to approve the merger.
At the time, Hinderks characterized the merger as a natural conclusion to a long conversation.
“There was a mutual conclusion that there was something to talk about, and from that point we began to move forward,” Hinderks said at the time. “It’s not all that surprising for the thought to come up. The surprising part is when you find enough of something to have that second conversation.”
Predecessor firm Stinson Morrison Hecker was ranked sixth in the 2013 MOney 20 listings of the state’s highest grossing firms, based on its $148.8 million in 2012 revenue.