Fennemore Craig merger gives Reno branch a ‘deeper bench’ | nnbw.com

Fennemore Craig merger gives Reno branch a ‘deeper bench’

Craig Etem, director at Fennemore Craig in Reno.
Courtesy Photo: Fennemore Craig

RENO, Nev. — For years, Fennemore Craig has been focused on expanding its geographic footprint in the Western U.S. With six offices in Arizona, Colorado and Nevada, the law firm had one state in particular in its growth plan: California.

Come October, Fennemore Craig will officially extend its reach into the Golden State. 

The company announced July 28 it will merge with Dowling Aaron, a Fresno-based law firm with four offices in Central California. The combined firm will operate as Fennemore Craig Dowling Aaron in California, with roughly 350 staff, 180 of whom are attorneys, according to Fennemore Craig.

The merger, which has been approved by shareholders and directors from both companies, would take effect Oct. 1.

“We’re just really excited and we believe the folks at Dowling Aaron are as well,” Craig Etem, director at Fennemore Craig in Reno, told the NNBW. “It will allow both firms to be stronger and provide better service.”

Etem said financial terms of the merger are not being disclosed.

He added that the merger will not impact current employees of Fennemore Craig, which has more than 250 combined lawyers and staff. At the law firm’s Reno office, there are 14 lawyers and eight staff.

Etem said the two firms began exploring a merger in the fall and set the wheels in motion in early 2020 before the coronavirus pandemic pumped the brakes on discussions.

“It probably put a two and a half month delay on it,” Etem said. “But both firms have weathered the storm pretty well. Once we both saw the other firm is going to be around, we decided maybe we should continue these discussions.”

With its expansion in Central California, Fennemore Craig will move into one of the largest food-producing region in the world. With that in mind, Etem said Fennemore Craig has a “very robust” agribusiness practice.

He added that the law firm also has strong water law and natural resources practices, two areas with in demand in both Northern Nevada and Central California.

“It gives us that entrée to California,” Etem said. “Let’s face it — our Reno clients often have issues in California. And we don’t have to go digging around for somebody we worked with before. We’ll say, let me call my partner. And that’s a big plus. You get a deeper bench.”

Fennemore Craig and Dowling Aaron are join forces during an especially slow year for law firm mergers. According to Bloomberg Law, only seven firm combinations were recorded in Q2 of this year, a near 10-year low in activity.

“At a point in our working lives where good news can sometimes be hard to find, I’m happy to announce this merger as a signal to our clients that we’re committed to them today and into the future,” Dowling Aaron’s president Leigh Burnside said in a statement.

Burnside will join the combined firm’s management committee.

Fennemore Craig CEO James Goodnow will remain chief executive of the new firm, while Sarah Strunk will continue on as chair of the firm’s board of directors.

Richard Aaron, named partner and chair of Dowling Aaron, will move into a senior position within the firm and on key firm committees.