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Downtown law firm Thorp Reed & Armstrong in merger

| Saturday, March 30, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Downtown law firm Thorp Reed & Armstrong will merge with Detroit-based Clark Hill, the two firms announced on Friday, forming a practice with more than 300 attorneys that will cover eight states and Washington.

“We felt like it was an opportunity we had to take,” said Jeffrey Conn, Thorp Reed's managing partner. “The merger provides our firm with opportunities to grow in our current markets, as well as expand into new markets.”

The merged firm will be called Clark Hill, and Thorp Reed's five offices will be rebranded as Clark Hill Thorp Reed. The combined practice will have 310 attorneys in 12 offices in the South, Northeast, Midwest and West. The transaction is expected to be completed in the second quarter with John Hern Jr., CEO of Clark Hill, heading the merged firm.

The move to combine resources comes as many large law practices have been struggling with lower demand for corporate legal services, which has crimped profitability and led to cuts at some firms.

Conn, who will remain managing partner of Thorp Reed's office after the merger, and Hern maintained that the combination was driven by competitive pressure and the need to expand their businesses in each other's markets.

“This merger allows us to provide more value to our clients, with more expertise and capabilities in more places,” Hern said.

Hern and Conn said both firms have been profitable and no cuts are planned once the merger is completed, which is expected in the April-to-June quarter.

“The legal industry is under enormous competitive pressure right now, and I think the experts would say that it's a market segment that hasn't been growing,” Hern said.

“But fortunately Clark Hill has been growing. ... We think a combination like this makes sense for both Clark Hill and Thorp Reed,” he said.

Both firms will benefit because they'll have more attorneys with more specializations to work with clients, Conn said.

Law firms' billable hours last year increased 1.5 percent, while expenses rose 6 percent, according to a Thomson Reuters survey.

Clark Hill, which employs 220 attorneys, has offices in Birmingham, Detroit, Grand Rapids and Lansing in Michigan; Chicago; Phoenix; and Washington.

Thorp Reed, founded in Pittsburgh in 1895, has 90 attorneys working in offices in Downtown; Philadelphia; Princeton, N.J.; Wheeling, W.Va.; and Wilmington, Del.

Alex Nixon is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7928 or anixon@tribweb.com.

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