Baker & Daniels LLP, one of Indianapolis' largest and oldest law firms, is in merger discussions with a Minneapolis law firm and hopes to complete a deal in October.The loss of the Baker & Daniels would be a blow to the legal community. Baker & Daniels, like Barnes & Thornburg, the state's largest firm, feeds at the public trough funnelling big money to candidates and in return receiving legal work. For that reason, many non-attorneys lump the two firms together. Those of us who regularly do litigation though know better.
Tom Froehle, managing partner of Baker & Daniels, said he announced to partners on Thursday that the firm is in talks with Faegre & Benson LLP.
With 221 local attorneys, Baker & Daniels is the Indianapolis area's second-largest law firm behind Barnes & Thornburg LLP, which has 228 attorneys. Overall, it boasts 308 lawyers in seven locations, including Chicago; Washington, D.C.; and Beijing.
A merger with the 500-lawyer Faegre & Benson would create the largest law-firm combination involving an Indianapolis firm. More importantly, it gives Baker & Daniels a larger regional presence and greater access to more work.
As 24 year attorney, I have had litigated numerous cases against the two firms. They are as different as night and day. With Baker and Daniels' attorneys, I've experienced nothing but professionalism and fair play. There are ethical lines I have not seen B&D attorneys cross. When it comes to conflicts of interest, B&D attorneys follow the rules. At least that's been my consistent experience dealing with B&D attorneys.
Litigating cases against Barnes and Thornburg is completely different. Many of that firm's attorneys will employ tactics you will see from no other firm in town. The conflicts of interest rules that we attorneys are obligated to follow are often ignored at B&T. The most recent example is B&T's representation of FSSA by B&T in a lawsuit against IBM. In the contract with the State, B&T even admits they may have to sue a current client, ACS, which acted as a subcontractor of IBM. It's a nonwaivable conflict under the ethics rules. I'm not sure any other law firm in the State would have attempted to represent FSSA in the face of such an obvious conflict of interest.
Of course the above is a generalization and there are attorneys that are exceptions to the rule at both law firms. But after 23 years of observance, I can say there is definitely is a cultural difference at the two law firms. I think it would be a shame if a merger changed Baker and Daniels' corporate climate.