April 10, 2012 3:44 PM

After Partner Departures, Balch Bingham Takes Over Birmingham Firm

Posted by Brian Baxter

Birmingham Skyline

After losing a team of lawyers to a crosstown competitor earlier this year, Birmingham-based Balch Bingham announced on Monday that it has acquired Presley Burton Collier, a seven-lawyer firm that specializes in public finance.

Balch Bingham, one of the largest firms in Alabama, said that its health care practice would be boosted by the acquisition of Presley Burton, which is also based in Birmingham. The merger comes after Balch Bingham lost 10 health care lawyers—including seven partners and one counsel—to Bradley Arant Boult Cummings in January and February.

“The attorneys of Presley Burton Collier have a well-deserved reputation as outstanding lawyers serving tax-exempt and tax-advantaged transactions across the nation,â€� Alan Rogers, the chairman of Balch Bingham’s executive committee, said in a statement. “This addition to our team represents a continued commitment to the health care industry and an investment in our business and finance offerings.â€�

Balch Bingham, which has outposts in Atlanta, Washington, D.C., and three other locations, has 232 lawyers, including 142 partners. That makes it the 176th-largest firm in the nation by headacount in the latest NLJ 250 survey, compiled by sibling publication The National Law Journal.

In an interview with The Am Law Daily, Rogers says that he has long been friendly with J. Hobson Presley, Jr., who founded Presley Burton in 2004 after leaving Birmingham’s Maynard, Cooper Gale. Rogers adds that their two firms have previously discussed combining operations after working on a number of public finance transactions.

Rogers says that the departure of the health care lawyers “created the opportunity” for Presley Burton to come aboard. Rogers declines to get into specifics on why such a move was necessary other than to say that it “removed obstacles” to a merger.

Rogers notes that by adding Presley Burton to Balch Bingham (which will keep its current name), his firm will have two past presidents of the National Association of Bond Lawyers—Presley, and J. Foster Clark, the chair of the business section and public finance practice at Balch Bingham. Rogers expects the addition of Presley Burton to help Balch Bingham grab more of a market share in the regional bond and public finance market.

“We want to be in the centers of government and commerce in the southeast,â€� says Rogers, listing energy, financial services, and health care as Balch Bingham’s largest practice areas. “Those three industries are among the most heavily regulated in our system, so it’s important that we’re where the regulators are, both at the state and federal level.â€�

The southeastern U.S. has been particularly active in the large law firm merger market in recent years. Balch Bingham’s regional rival Bradley Arant is the product of a December 2008 merger between Birmingham-based Bradley Arant Rose White and Nashville-based Boult, Cummings, Connors Berry. (The firm has 359 lawyers, 235 of whom are partners, according to the most recent NLJ 250.)

Earlier this year, The Am Law Daily reported on merger moves by regional powerhouses Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell Berkowitz and Womble Carlyle Sandridge Rice to pick up smaller shops in Florida, South Carolina, and Texas. Last week, separate reports by two legal consulting firms—Altman Weil and Hildebrandt—found that mergers among large law firms were either up or holding steady through the first quarter of 2012.

Photo: Birmingham Skyline, Robert Donovan, Wikimedia Commons

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