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Two Smaller Chicago Firms Find Prosperous Marriage During Downturn

Apr 15, 2009
ABA Journal.com | By Rachel M. Zahorsky

We've reported that some midsize law firms and boutiques are benefiting from the financial downturn, and now two Chicago-based firms have joined forces in a bid to woo cost-conscious general counsel away from expensive BigLaw firms.

Trial and appellate boutique Crisham & Kubes merged with Schuyler Roche, a full-service 40-lawyer firm, forming Schuyler, Roche & Crisham, according to a firm press release.

"I think it's a good time, ironically, for smaller midsize firms," Mike Roche, chairman of the board of directors of the newly created firm, told the ABA Journal in an interview. "We used to have trouble getting in the front door of Fortune 500 companies because a lot of businesses at that level wanted to hire the biggest, most expensive firms."

While tightened purse strings are one factor bringing more outside counsel work to smaller firms, they also give in-house counsel also the ability to get a partner on the phone without having to wade through an army of associates.

"Now there is a real change in the mindset of in-house counsels," Roche said. "They're more cost-conscious and want direct, personal relationships with the lawyers handling their cases."

Tom Crisham, who serves as a member of the board of directors of the new firm, said both firms were more profitable in 2008 than they were a year earlier and credited lean and aggressive business management to keeping overhead costs down.

In additon to a larger talent pool to staff complex litigation and transactional matters, Roche joked that there's a significant nonlaw bonus to the new venture as well: a deeper bench for Schuyler Roche's championship-winning softball team.

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