By Brian Dowling for Law360.com
New England law firm Verrill Dana LLP plans to combine with Boston’s Rackemann Sawyer & Brewster as the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve, the firms said Tuesday.
The combination, effective Jan. 1, expands Verrill’s Boston presence, nearly doubling its headcount in the city to 60 attorneys. The firms, both founded in the middle of the 18th century, will operate together as Verrill.
Verrill eyed the deal to benefit from Rackemann’s “deep experience” in real estate, trusts and estates and insurance regulatory practices, while Rackemann — the smaller of the two medium-size firms — will capitalize on Verrill’s size and expertise to serve its clients, the firms said.
The idea to combine firms grew out of a social lunch attended by lawyers from both firms, including Verrill Dana partner and executive board chair Regina M. Hurley. A follow-up lunch weeks later with the firms’ managing partners deepened interest in the potential merger.
“We went in at 12, came out at 3:30 p.m., I looked at my managing partner and said, ‘That was a great first date,'” Hurley told Law360.
Verrill, founded in Maine but operating today as a New England regional firm, had then recently completed its strategic planning out to 2025 that called for an expansion of its Boston office. The firm had already added three lawyers to its health care group, including former Assistant U.S. Attorney David Lazarus, who led the government’s successful prosecution of five Insys Therapeutics Inc. executives accused of conspiring to bribe doctors to prescribe opioids.
In the initial meetings with Rackemann, Verrill saw a fit on all the points that mattered most: capable practices, quality lawyers and ability to serve clients.
“We realized we had found a perfect match,” Hurley said.
Rackemann managing director Frank A. De Vito said that with Verrill, the firm could give more to its clients with a deeper bench of attorneys.
“We wanted to grow but not just for growth’s sake,” De Vito said. “We were looking to grow key practices areas like real estate, trusts, litigation and insurance. Verrill has strong attorneys in those areas, and when you look at the overlap, anytime you can provide clients a deeper team and compliment practices it is a win-win.”
Hurley and De Vito agreed it was critical for the firms’ cultures to work together — “culture eats strategy for lunch,” the Verrill partner said, riffing on a quote by famed management guru Peter Drucker.
Soon after the lunches, the firms’ leadership teams put weekly Thursday morning meetings on the schedule, which culminated in the decision to join forces.
De Vito said the combination will help the newly joined firm compete in the crowded Boston legal market.
“Competition is the toughest thing we face as lawyers because there’s a lot of lawyers out there,” he said. “The combination allows us to give clients what they want: They want experts, they want lawyers who are responsive, they want lawyers who are easy to work with, they want reasonable costs. We check all the boxes.”
The deal follows a slow year for New England law firm mergers, with just five smaller deals.
Halloran Sage in Connecticut acquired Cooley Shrair PC’s six attorneys in Springfield, Massachusetts. Missouri-based Husch Blackwell LLP moved into Boston with a deal for Summit Health Partners and its 11 attorneys. Nutter McClennen & Fish LLP acquired Boston boutique corporate firm BRL Law Group LLC and its five attorneys. The Wagner Law Group in Boston inked a deal for two attorneys from Iowa-firm Germaine Law Firm PLLC. And Standard Title & Escrow merged with Stelman Law PLLC and its three employees.
Pandemic uncertainties continued to dampen interest in firm mergers in 2021 like it did the year prior, according to consulting firm Fairfax Associates. That said, prospects for more deal activity are bright for 2022, as firms show interest in adding to their talent pools, the consulting firm said.
Verrill has 121 attorneys working in offices in Portland and Augusta, Maine; Boston; Westport, Connecticut; Providence, Rhode Island; Washington, D.C.; and White Plains, New York. Rackemann has 29 attorneys in its Boston office.