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updated: 7/24/2017 7:25 AM

Is law firm 'merger' a model for others?

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Founded in 1868 and once a fixture in the Kane County legal community, Elgin law firm Brady & Jensen LLP is no more: One week ago today, five of the firm's six attorneys joined Huck Bouma PC, a Wheaton law firm with, now, more than 40 attorneys.

The old firm "is gone, no longer practicing law," says Keith Spong, one of the five Brady Jensen attorneys who now are Huck Bouma employees.

Why should we care? The decisions Brady Jensen attorneys faced as they determined their firm's future are similar to decisions professionals in smaller accounting firms, medical practices, consultancies and other law firms face as they look ahead.

The choices aren't always easy. "Any time an organization gives up complete independence, there needs to be a lot to be gained," Spong says.

Not surprisingly, resources often are the main issue.

"Running a smaller (professional services) firm is really, really challenging," former Brady Jensen partner Mike Deutsch says. "We wanted a good landing spot for our clients."

"We have more bench strength," Huck Bouma attorney and shareholder Aaron Ruswick begins as he discusses what most non-attorneys might call a merger but which the lawyers involved call a transition.

In addition, Ruswick points to Huck Bouma's full-time accounting staff as indicative of the larger firm's ability to create internal operating efficiencies.

The bench strength obviously matters when backup may be needed to help a client, and, while there's much to be said for smaller firms and the personal attention they can provide clients, the administrative support and efficiencies many smaller firms can't afford become important.

Although there were apparently some succession issues, certainly not unusual in smaller businesses, the move to Huck Bouma "is a growth strategy for us," Deutsch says. "We can make sure our clients are well served."

Partly because there was "no immediate urgency," Deutsch says, the process took four years to put together. Now the five former Brady & Jensen attorneys are Huck Bouma attorneys whose professional futures seem more assured and who have more to offer their clients. (The sixth Brady Jensen attorney wasn't a good service fit.)

Here are what seem to be key highlights:

• There's a different name (Huck Bouma) on the door, but the former Brady Jensen attorneys remain in Elgin.

• That's important because Huck Bouma, which is a significant DuPage player, gets access to the Kane and nearby counties marketplace at, presumably, less cost and with less effort than establishing a de novo practice.

"We can expand our footprint," Ruswick says.

"Our practice specialties are very compatible with Huck Bouma," says Deutsch. "That gives us more resources, more depth, that we can provide to (already existing) clients."

It's very early days, of course, but so far the transition seems to be going well. Spong says, for example, that notices sent to Brady Jensen clients before July 17 "brought positive responses."

• © 2017 Kendall Communications Inc. Follow Jim Kendall on LinkedIn and Twitter. Write him at Listen to Jim's Business Owners' Pod Talk at

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