By Greg Paeth
Lawyers in the region who practice in business categories are seeing demand for their services increase in parallel with an economy growing quicker than Amazon Prime’s express package delivery.
“Northern Kentucky continues to fuel economic expansion with recent key wins,” said Bradley C. Arnett, a partner with Bingham Greenebaum Doll who works in the firm’s office in Cincinnati, one of six BGD has in Kentucky, Indiana and Ohio.
“The firm continues to view its Cincinnati office as an important growth platform, with Northern Kentucky playing a key part in that strategy,” Arnett said. “Northern Kentucky’s employment growth and wage growth have been strong since the last recession, outpacing Ohio on both measures.”
As evidence of Northern Kentucky’s economic health, Arnett mentioned six recent business announcements: a $19 million FEAM Aero hangar at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport; Amazon’s $1.5 billion investment to put its first Prime Air hub at the airport; Coca-Cola’s sales and distribution facility in Erlanger; Kroger’s supermarket distribution center in Florence; Maxim Crane Works in Wilder; and a Blue Grass Metals Expansion in Boone County.
The only thing holding back growth for law firms in the region at this point is the competition for qualified attorneys in those expanding business practice areas – corporate transactions such as mergers and acquisitions and capital raising activities, regulatory compliance, and data privacy and cybersecurity, Arnett said.
The Salmon P. Chase College of Law at Northern Kentucky University provides both part-time (day and evening) and full-time programs of study that lead to a juris doctor (J.D.) degree, as well as joint degrees in JD/Master of Business Administration, JD/Master of Health Informatics, and JD/Master of Business Informatics.
One of BGD’s competitors for legal talent in the region is Graydon Law, which traces its history to 1871. Known for many years as Graydon, Head & Ritchey, it opened a Northern Kentucky office
“We really want to hire people who have a little bit of experience in corporate law, in tax law, in commercial real estate transactions,” said J. Stephen Smith, “and those are areas where if you’re alone in an office you don’t really get that kind of experience to sell to a higher bidder.”
Smith, who is president-elect of the Kentucky Bar Association, was explaining that it can be difficult to acquire business practice acumen for traditional sole practitioners who don’t work with a mentor or have a chance to get an opinion from a colleague on, for example, a proposed strategy.
“Business is moving. Our real estate people are furiously busy. Our tax people are furiously busy. Our corporate transaction people are busy and getting busier,” said Smith, whose firm has 80 lawyers, including about a dozen in the Fort Mitchell office.
“There is a really healthy environment for general corporate acquisitions, corporate growth, international transactions, general corporate work … When the economy’s healthy, businesses invest, businesses buy buildings, they get bigger, they hire more people, they need more structure, more legal advice,” said Smith. “Corporations are demanding that our firm reflects their values.”
Northern Kentucky Bar Association President Carey K. Steffen, managing attorney for real estate and litigation for Gerner & Kearns, said the economy in the tri-state area is supporting the growth of the law firm in general.
Gerner & Kearns has offices in Kentucky, Ohio and Indiana, but like Arnett and Smith, Steffen said it’s difficult to say whether the state line means much to a client.
“In this area, it is very common for attorneys to be licensed in both Kentucky and Ohio,” she said, “and more recently, I am noticing more attorneys who are becoming licensed in additional states as well, myself as an example.” Steffen took the Indiana bar in 2016.
Smith agrees that it can be both tricky and beneficial to practice law on the border.
“Northern Kentucky has always been a little weird because we’ve got Cincinnati across the river – and Cincinnati draws a lot of water – bigger buildings, law firms with more people,” he said. “Within this region, you have every court that exists in the United States with the exception of the Supreme Court. It’s kind of a dense zone.”
Jim Dressman, managing partner of Dressman Benzinger LaVelle, said his firm, which has deep roots in Northern Kentucky and offices in Crestview Hills, Louisville and Cincinnati, has hired six associates and added two attorneys who had been partners elsewhere in the last 18 months. With those additions, DBL now has about 45 lawyers on staff.
“Increased demand has been across the board, with a particular increase in demand for legal services in litigation, intra-family owned business disputes, negotiating and enforcing employment agreements and non-competition provisions, and in regulatory compliance investigation and enforcement activity,” Dressman said.
“DBL Law has always had a significant practice representing banks and borrowers, and parties in mergers and acquisitions,” he said. “The hot economy has provided plenty of work for that practice group, as well.”
Staying on top of a hot economy is business as usual for firms like Cincinnati-based Keating Muething & Klekamp PLL, which prides itself on having a entrepreneurial, proactive and strategic mindset. According to its website, KMK attorneys “integrate themselves into our clients’ businesses – strategizing from their point of view in order to develop sophisticated, high-value solutions that are efficient, effective, and economical.”
No matter the legal needs, the attorneys of Northern Kentucky and Greater Cincinnati have all of the tools to keep the economy thriving.
Bingham Greenebaum Doll LLP
3500 National City Tower
101 South Fifth Street
Louisville, KY 40202
Bingham Greenebaum Doll LLP has served the legal and business needs of clients for more than a century, providing transactional, litigation, tax and government-related services to clients across a variety of industries and business sectors. The firm also provides estate planning and other services to individuals and nonprofits.
Adams, Stepner, Woltermann & Dusing PLLC
Barron Peck Bennie & Schlemmer
Bingham Greenebaum Doll LLP
Bonar, Bucher & Ranking PSC
Bramel & Ackley PSC
Calfee, Halter & Griswold LLP
Cetrulo, Mowery & Hicks
Cors & Bassett LLC
Dinsmore & Shohl LLP
Dressman Benzinger LaVelle PSC
Fessler, Schneider & Grimme LLP
Freund, Freeze & Arnold
Frost Brown Todd LLC
Garvey Shearer Nordstrom PSC
Gerner & Kearns Co. LPA
Greta Hoffman & Associates
John D. Christopher Jr., Attorney at Law
Keating Muething & Klekamp PLL
Kenton County Attorney
Legal Shield/ID Shield
Nielson & Sherry PSC
Novakov & Associates PLLC
O’Hara Taylor Sloan & Cassidy
Raines Dusing & Sutton PLLC
Reminger Co. LPA
Richardson and Vogt PLLC
Stites & Harbison PLLC
Strauss Troy Co. LPA
The Sanders Law Firm PSC
Thompson Hine LLP
Wallace Boggs PLLC
Weltman, Weinberg & Reis Co. LPA
William E. Hesch Law Firm LLC
Wolnitzek & Rowekamp, PSC
Wood & Lamping LLP
Wood, Herron & Evans
Ziegler & Schneider PSC
Information provided by Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce. This is not a comprehensive list.