Strength in Legal Alliances: Tulsa, Oklahoma City Firms Tout Meritas Ties

Article excerpt

In this age of post-recession consolidation, many of the nation's larger law firms have reactivated their acquisition policies. Seeing opportunities among regional and local firms, Oklahoma's resilient economy and rising national profile may have some players looking in this direction for the first time in years.

"Major clients want to have large firms represent them," said Bill Anderson, a partner with the Tulsa law firm Doerner, Saunders, Daniel and Anderson. "If you're not at least 100 lawyers or 150, they won't even consider using them."

One way smaller firms compete against such greater size and clout is to band together with others around the nation, counting the resources among their own. That's what the 42-attorney Doerner, Saunders did in gaining acceptance to Meritas, the Minneapolis- based alliance of commercial law firms. Its 173 members include 7,000 lawyers practicing in 73 countries.

"It gives us a global reach that we didn't have before," said Doerner, Saunders partner H. Wayne Cooper. "In fact, it's already happened for a client of ours that needed representation in Australia. We needed to look no farther than the Meritas affiliate in Melbourne."

That points to the first payoff of membership, which is acquired through a strict evaluation process. When Doerner, Saunders needs assistance in an area outside its jurisdiction, it may immediately direct clients to a fellow member whose effectiveness and results are evaluated regularly by Meritas itself.

"It is a matter of accountability," said Cooper. "You actually get a report card at the end of an engagement referred to you. The receiving firm will give feedback to Meritas on how well you did."

His firm also may receive referrals from other members seeking help in its market area.

"It has been very beneficial to us on a revenue standpoint," said D. Joe Rockett, an attorney with the Oklahoma City firm Andrews Davis, whose 22-attorney firm was a Meritas founder. "It has steadily increased. …