One Merger Wiggin Couldn't Resist

October 7, 2003
The Connecticut Law Tribune, October 6, 2003 by Scott Brede
Establishing a midtown Manhattan office wasn't on Wiggin & Dana's to-do list, insists executive committee Chairman Edward Wood Dunham. The New Haven-based firm, he said, has always been averse to growth just for growth's sake -- and that hasn't changed.
 
But when a headhunter called last May seeking suitors for six-lawyer Howe & Addington, Wiggin partners began looking at the perks associated with having a presence in the nation's largest legal market.
 
Howe & Addington also brought both top-notch and good-natured legal talent to the equation. "These people are excellent lawyers -- and even better people. If neither were true, we wouldn't be doing this," said Dunham, announcing the merger Oct. 1.
 
By bringing the real estate, tax, estate planning and litigation boutique into the fold, Wiggin now has five offices and 155 attorneys. It's Wiggin's second out-of-state expansion in the last two years. In October 2001, it added a small Philadelphia franchise law practice to bolster Wiggin's existing strength in that area.
 
Dunham said, like the Philadelphia outpost, the firm has no plans to build a huge New York City presence. "Two years from now, [the Manhattan office] is going to be bigger than it is now, but it's not going to be 10 times bigger." Speaking of the firm as a whole, he maintained, "Past a certain point, size becomes a trap, not a virtue."
 
Still, he proclaimed, "Every part of our practice is likely to benefit by having a small office in New York." Perhaps the two practice groups that stand the most to gain, Dunham said, are its white-collar defense, investigations and corporate compliance unit, headed by former White House Associate Counsel David B. Fein, and its intellectual property group.
 
New York continues to be the "epicenter" of white-collar defense work, while its IP lawyers represent a number of international clients who are simply "used to dealing with people in New York," Dunham noted. Although Wiggin & Dana has no qualms with being a Connecticut-based outfit, for certain kinds of clients, Dunham readily acknowledged, a presence in Manhattan plays a large part in getting them to consider retaining the firm.
 
Dunham said he also expects the merger to pay off in recruiting laterals who wouldn't dream of practicing anywhere but in New York.
 
Like Wiggin, Howe & Addington, he said, has a substantial international law practice, aiding some of the largest pension funds in Europe in their U.S. investments. It also does sophisticated estate planning for "multinational" families and individuals with assets in the United States.
 
Howe & Addington's lawyers include R. Scott Greathead, New York's First Assistant Attorney General until 1990.