The “merge urge” has struck the Ventura County legal scene again.
Wood & Bender, a 14-attorney firm based in Ventura, has merged with New York-based Anderson Kill & Olick, a 79-attorney firm.
The Jan. 1 deal gives Northeast-based Anderson Kill, a former competitor to Wood & Bender, a California presence. The new California firm is called Anderson Kill Wood & Bender and retains all 14 Wood & Bender attorneys.
The Wood & Bender deal represents the second Ventura County legal merger in recent months. Atlanta-based Alston & Bird merged with Los Angeles-based Weston Benshoof Rochefort Rubalcava & MacCuish, which maintained six attorneys in Westlake Village.
Wood & Bender is also the second Tri-County-based firm to combine with an outside firm in as many years. Last January, Hatch & Parent – formerly the region’s second largest firm with nearly 30 attorneys – merged with Denver-based Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck.
Both Wood & Bender and Anderson Kill specialize in insurance recovery – they represent policyholders against their insurers. Both are well-known in the field; Wood & Bender has counted Fortune 500 companies as clients, and Anderson Kill represents the state of California.
“[The merger] gave us a chance to be part of a national firm that does what we do and does what we do as well as we do it,” said David Bender, now an equity partner in Anderson Kill Wood & Bender. “We wouldn’t have merged with just anyone that came along.”
The addition of Wood & Bender’s team puts the total attorney head-count at 95 – “additional firepower,” as Bender calls it. “There are just some companies that, no matter how comfortable they are with our abilities, they still see us as 14 lawyers,” Bender said. “There are some clients that would like to have more lawyers available if they need them.”
Bender said a good culture match helped sway his group. Both firms prided themselves on aggressive advocacy, sharp legal minds and a good work atmosphere.
But more than anything, Bender sees opportunities. With the legal industry consolidating, it’s harder for businesses to find a quality firm that doesn’t also represent an insurance company – a conflict of interest in a policy enforcement dispute.
“Anderson Kill has always had a lot of business in the Western U.S. and in California,” Bender said. “But they’ve not had a presence out here. [The merger] gives our firm an ability to provide service for their existing clients, and it also gives us the chance to be more competitive for national work.”