Ballard Spahr to Merge With Levine Sullivan Koch & Schulz

Editor’s Note: This post was updated to include quotes from interviews with Mark Stewart and Jay Ward Brown

Ballard Spahr and Levine Sullivan Koch & Schulz, a First Amendment and media law firm, announced a merger agreement yesterday that will take effect Oct. 1, according to a news release. The merger will retain the Ballard Spahr name.

LSKS has 25 attorneys, who will join Ballard Spahr’s offices in New York, Denver, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. LSKS’s four named partners are Lee Levine, Michael Sullivan, Elizabeth Koch and David Schulz.

Notable cases litigated by LSKS include a defamation suit against the New York Times by former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, which resulted in a dismissal in federal court, and defending NBCUniversal in a defamation suit brought by George Zimmerman, who was acquitted of fatally shooting Trayvon Martin.

“The opportunity to couple with this quality of lawyers with their reputation made it a pretty easy decision,” Ballard Spahr’s Philadelphia-based chair, Mark Stewart, told Law Week of the deal. The incoming group of lawyers from LSKS “adds to the aura of our Denver office” and further shows his firm’s commitment to Colorado, he added.

Ballard Spahr has a media and entertainment law group headed by partners David Bodney in Phoenix and Chuck Tobin in Washington, D.C. For Ballard Spahr, the focus of the merger wasn’t adding quantity to that practice but rather quality, Stewart said, adding that LSKS has “the very best cases” in the field.

Jay Ward Brown, LSKS’s managing partner out of Washington, D.C., called the decision to merge with Ballard Spahr “quite straightforward” and “a good fit on all grounds.” He cited Ballard Spahr’s commitment to its First Amendment practice and the cultural fit as draws for his firm in the merger.

LSKS recently celebrated its 20th anniversary and since then was discussing what direction the firm should take going into its next decade, according to Brown. He said the partners all agreed that “as pleasurable it may be to be a small independent boutique … we and our clients would really benefit from a larger platform” both in terms of geographic reach and the number of attorneys.

Being a small boutique can limit the types of cases LSKS might receive from clients, Brown said. When a First Amendment case had potential to grow huge, clients might have preferred to send it to a larger firm that they perceive more likely to have the available attorneys and resources to handle it. LSKS’s attorneys should no longer see that limitation, he said, adding that working within a larger firm also give LSKS attorneys more flexibility in pursuing pro bono work. “We’ll have the expertise and talents of Ballard’s entire litigation practice behind us.”

The attorneys from LSKS’s Denver outpost should also see the benefit, Brown said. “It will be great for our Denver colleagues to have (Ballard Spahr’s) resources and colleagues to support them in litigation.”

Last week, Ballard Spahr announced it will also merge with Lindquist & Vennum, a firm based in Minneapolis specializing in private equity deals and middle-market mergers and acquisitions. That merger will take effect Jan. 1 and is expected to bring 13 attorneys to Ballard Spahr’s Denver office.