Ballard Spahr LLP, one of Philadelphia's most powerful law firms, announced its second big merger in a week on Tuesday, continuing its national expansion.
The Center City firm, soon to employ more than 700 lawyers from 550, is merging with Levine Sullivan Koch & Schulz (LSKS), with 25 attorneys based in Washington, exclusively focused on First Amendment cases and media law.
Last month LSKS achieved the dismissal of a defamation suit brought against the New York Times by former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin. It is also credited with helping the Associated Press obtain the release of sealed documents in the Bill Cosby sex-assault cases. The firm has represented CNN, the Washington Post, and NBC in key cases.
"This was an opportunity for us to acquire a group of the finest practitioners in an area of the law that's important to us, and we took it," said Mark S. Stewart, CEO of Ballard Spahr. "They are superstars."
The merger turbocharges Ballard Spahr's First Amendment litigation practice, which in June brought on Charles Tobin, one of the nation's preeminent media lawyers. Tobin and media-law practice coleader David Bodney are said to already have a close relationship with LSKS principals Lee Levine, a University of Pennsylvania grad whom American Lawyer has described as "the dean of First Amendment Law," and Michael D. Sullivan, whom Best Lawyers declared "probably the best jury-trial lawyer for a media defendant bar none."
In addition to its main office in the nation's capitol, LSKS has offices in New York, Philadelphia, and Denver.
Last week, Ballard Spahr, which has 13 offices at the moment, announced a merger with Minneapolis-based Lindquist & Vennum, a 150-attorney firm focused on corporate mergers and acquisitions. Lindquist & Vennum also has offices in Denver and Sioux Falls, S.D.
Stewart said the timing of the two acquisitions was coincidental.
"It was not an intention that we set out to be a bigger firm," Stewart said of the merger with Linquist & Vennum. "It's not that we felt our size was an impediment, or clients didn't think we were impressive enough with only 550 attorneys [before the two mergers]. It was a strategic move to increase the depth of our business practice, and expand into a region of the country where we were not located. It all looked right to us. I don't see numbers as being the goal. I see the strength of the practice being the goal."