Criminal Defense Growing in Importance: Law Firms Merge to Respond
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History shows that criminal defense work was avoided and shunned in the past. In these times where white-collar crimes are common, high profile lawyers are needed more than ever. In light of Wall Street’s blunders and closer scrutiny of new laws that affect reporting and changes in a firm’s fiduciary duties, lawyers nowadays do not mind engaging in criminal defense of white collar crimes.

Stillman & Friedman have announced their merger with Ballard Spahr. The firms will combine their strengths and have more to offer potential clients. They will leverage their brands and reputations as well as experience. Mark. S. Steward, chairman of Ballard Spahr commented, “They’re a perfect fit. It’s easy to go out and get bodies, but rare to get the judgment our clients are getting with Stillman & Friedman.”


The combination speaks to a shift that has taken place over decades, of corporate firms making a core business out of white-collar work, including conducting internal investigations, handling foreign-bribery cases and representing executives in a number of scandals. As firms struggle to increase revenue, they realize that representing business people behaving badly is good for the bottom line, according to the NY Times.

In the 1970s, a handful of criminal defense lawyers would work on these types of cases. Times have changed along with business practices. Criminal defense is now typically a part of every national firm’s core business. Smaller firms with fewer partners have closed to join larger firms where hundreds or more lawyers may be employed.

Legal issues are constantly erupting on Wall Street, like the Rajaratnam case or the LIBOR scandal, or insider trading at SAC Capital. Criminal defense work is increasingly out there and larger firms will capitalize on the opportunities. Many of the cases require teams of lawyers to work around the clock. The staff required for one large case can be dozens of lawyers and an equally large support staff. A small firm may be experienced in the area, but the task at hand is sometimes very large.

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In an interview, Mr. Stillman said that Ballard — a 500-lawyer firm with 13 offices across the country first approached him about the idea of combining firms. But he also said that he and his partner, Julian W. Friedman, had for years considered merging with a big firm because of the changes they were seeing in the profession. He recently lost a big client to a large firm. He had represented Mathew Martoma, a former portfolio manager at SAC Capital Management charged in a vast insider-trading scheme, according to the NY Times. “We had heard enough times, ‘we want you to handle this litigation but you’re not big enough,’ that we had to consider a bigger platform to serve our clients,” Mr. Stillman said.


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