Davis Brown Law Firm, one of Iowa’s largest law firms, is combining with Dentons, which bills itself as the world’s largest firm.
The new partnership is not an acquisition or merger but rather a combining of two firms that will share resources and services, representatives of the two firms said in an interview with the Business Record.
“Davis Brown, which will become Denton Davis Brown, is still very much an independent law firm,” said Joe Andrew, global chairman of Dentons. The Des Moines firm’s “legal structure remains exactly the same; its leadership remains the same; it makes all the same decisions it made before. We’re just working collaboratively together in order to build an even better and bigger firm.”
John Pietila, Davis Brown president, said the firm’s shareholders weren’t interested in a merger. Instead, he said, “We were looking at our business, trying to understand what it is our clients need and expect from a law firm in our position in the marketplace, and then looking for ways to deliver on those client needs and expectations.”
Davis Brown, founded in 1929, has nearly 80 lawyers who work in its offices in downtown Des Moines, West Des Moines and Ames. It provides legal services in numerous specialized fields including agribusiness, construction, health law, immigration, mergers and acquisitions, real estate and wills, trusts and probate.
Davis Brown is ranked Band 1 by Chambers and Partners in all five practice areas available in the Iowa chapter of Chambers USA. The firm also has been voted by Business Record readers as Des Moines’ best law firm for 15 straight years.
Dentons has offices in more than 75 countries and numerous U.S. cities including Washington, D.C.
Lori Chesser, a Davis Brown shareholder and chairwoman of its immigration department, said immigration is a federal practice that often intersects with other areas of the law that are state-based.
“If I’m working with a company in California that involves California employee law, which is unique, I need someone from California to help advise my clients,” she said. “Before, I had to go outside and find someone to do that. Now I’ll have someone in the family, so to speak, to help my clients.”
The combining of the two firms is part of Project Golden Spike, launched by Dentons launched in January. The goal of the project, through numerous combinations, is to develop a national U.S. law firm to help clients navigate state and international laws.
Since January, Dentons has announced 28 new offices in the U.S. and internationally including in New Zealand, South Korea, Zambia and Argentina.
The pandemic has prompted numerous law firms across the nation to close offices and lay off staff, Andrew said. “We will have announced, launched or opened 28 offices in 2020 during this unbelievably difficult time for people all across the globe. We hope that demonstrates our confidence in the future; our confidence in the United States; our confidence in Iowa.”
Partners and shareholders in both firms have approved the combining of the two firms, the organizations’ representatives said. The official launch of the combination will take several more weeks to complete, they said.