Wednesday, May 23, 2018
Business

Amid tougher legal competition, Tampa's Fowler White Boggs law firm entertains a merger

Fowler White Boggs, a prominent Tampa law firm, is deep into merger talks with the far larger law firm of Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney in Pittsburgh.

This is no done deal. But if it happens, the 97-lawyer Fowler White firm and 450-lawyer Buchanan Ingersoll firm will reach most of the Northeast and Florida.

A merger would further highlight three trends in the legal community.

First, law firms are merging more often as cost pressures push them to get bigger and spread expenses over more clients.

Last year, 88 mergers of U.S. law firms occurred, a 47 percent jump from 2012 and the highest number of law firm combinations recorded in the seven years that legal research firm Altman Weil MergerLine has compiled such data.

Second, firms like Buchanan Ingersoll that serve Midwest clients increasingly eye Florida as a growth state where they want a strong presence.

And third, law firms find themselves squeezed by corporate clients paring down the number of law firms they use. To remain competitive, firms like Fowler White need to offer a legal footprint that can match the geographic reach of larger clients.

Fowler White CEO Rhea Law, one of the bay area's most influential business leaders, said in a statement that her firm gets "many inquiries" in the normal course of business from firms wanting to expand in Florida.

"These inquiries have increased during 2013 because of the recovering economy and Florida's attractiveness for business growth and economic development," she said. "We have had serious discussions with Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney over the last few months because of similarities in culture, practices, commitment to clients, as well as their existing presence and desire to grow in Florida."

Buchanan Ingersoll CEO John A. "Jack" Barbour calls Florida a "growth state and an important market" for the firm and its clients.

In 2008, Fowler White's practice split with 64 of its lawyers creating a new Tampa law firm, Banker Lopez Gassler. That spinoff left Fowler White with about 130 lawyers. It is smaller now.

While Fowler White remains a Florida-only firm, it pursues larger-sized corporate clients. In addition to its Tampa office, its biggest, the firm operates out of Tallahassee, Fort Myers, Jacksonville and Fort Lauderdale.

In Florida, a merger would add Buchanan Ingersoll's three in-state offices, including Miami, to the mix.

Fowler White is not the only Tampa law firm to consider bulking up. Last year, Tampa's largest law firm, the 300-lawyer Carlton Fields, said it would purchase the smaller Jorden Burt firm with offices in Miami, Washington, D.C., and Hartford, Conn. That merger — completed earlier this month — brings the new Carlton Fields Jorden Burt firm to 370 lawyers and lobbyists.

If Fowler White cuts a deal with Buchanan Ingersoll, a firm more than four times its size, are we really talking about a merger or an acquisition? Let's leave that prickly answer to the lawyers.

Robert Trigaux can be reached at [email protected]

Comments
Birchwood owner will open a three-story restaurant and bar at St. Petersburg pier

Birchwood owner will open a three-story restaurant and bar at St. Petersburg pier

ST. PETERSBURG — Chuck Prather, owner of the Birchwood in St. Petersburg, returned from his daughter’s Maine wedding this week with an exciting announcement of his own. On June 7 the St. Petersburg City Council is expected to sign off on him being on...
Updated: 9 hours ago
St. Petersburg’s Jabil expands in Israel with new innovation center

St. Petersburg’s Jabil expands in Israel with new innovation center

St. Petersburg-based contract electronics company Jabil announced Wednesday it has expanded in Israel by opening an Optics Technology Innovation Center.The 6,560-square-foot complex is in Haifa, Israel’s third-largest city. "Our Optics Innovation Cen...
Updated: 11 hours ago
New restaurants on the horizon: Metro Diner and Zoes Kitchen in Tampa, Trophy Fish and Oak & Stone in St. Pete

New restaurants on the horizon: Metro Diner and Zoes Kitchen in Tampa, Trophy Fish and Oak & Stone in St. Pete

OPEN NOW: BAHAMA BUCK’SFeel a shiver? Just in time for Florida’s sultry summer, Bahama Buck’s opened this week in Trinity with an avalanche of sno. The 2,346-square-foot island-inspired shop opened at 8815 Mitchell Blvd. with more than 91 flavors of ...
Updated: 12 hours ago
Lee Roy Selmon's original Tampa restaurant is closing, marking the end of an era

Lee Roy Selmon's original Tampa restaurant is closing, marking the end of an era

Lee Roy Selmon’s, the restaurant that paid homage to the community icon who rose to fame as a Tampa Bay Buccaneer and grew to become a popular civic leader, will shutter the doors of its original location on Tampa’s Boy Scout Boulevard in...
Updated: 12 hours ago
At Bay 3, developers of Tampa’s Armature Works transform old industrial space into new co-work offices

At Bay 3, developers of Tampa’s Armature Works transform old industrial space into new co-work offices

TAMPA — The name of the new Bay 3 co-working space at the Armature Works goes back to World War I, when the red-brick warehouse overlooking the Hillsborough River was the maintenance barn for Tampa Electric’s streetcar system.As the name suggests, it...
Published: 05/23/18
Comcast may outbid Disney for Twenty-First Century Fox

Comcast may outbid Disney for Twenty-First Century Fox

Associated PressPHILADELPHIA — Comcast may make an offer for Twenty-First Century Fox, potentially putting it in a head-to-head bidding war with Disney. Comcast Corp. on Wednesday did not provide specific details on a bid, other than to say that it w...
Published: 05/23/18
Brunch-based alcohol will be available at First Watch’s new Orlando location

Brunch-based alcohol will be available at First Watch’s new Orlando location

ORLANDO — The popular breakfast and brunch chain First Watch will be opening a new restaurant in Orlando that will add cocktails, beer and wine to the menu. The new concept restaurant, set to open on Memorial Day at 1448 N Alafaya Trail, will be 1,00...
Published: 05/23/18
Humana hiring 100 for phone sales, Medicare enrollment assistance

Humana hiring 100 for phone sales, Medicare enrollment assistance

Kentucky-based health care provider Humana is hiring 100 phone sales employees in Tampa Bay. The new hires will field sales calls and offer enrollment assistance for Humana’s Medicare plans and other products.The positions, which are being added to h...
Published: 05/22/18
Updated: 05/23/18
Downtown St. Pete Ford’s Garage and Yeoman’s to open Wednesday

Downtown St. Pete Ford’s Garage and Yeoman’s to open Wednesday

ST. PETERSBURG — Ford’s Garage, a car junkie’s haven, has proven to be popular eatery across the state.Now it has a chance to drive customers to its seats in St. Petersburg. The restaurant opens its ninth location downtown Wednesday at 200 First Ave....
Published: 05/23/18
Target: New Tampa, Clearwater stores part of company-wide makeovers

Target: New Tampa, Clearwater stores part of company-wide makeovers

Target is renovating more than 1,000 stores by the end of 2020, including two SuperTarget locations in New Tampa and Clearwater.The Clearwater store’s makeover — which the corporation calls ‘‘reimagining" — just wrapped up, according to Target spoke...
Published: 05/23/18