When the Detroit-based law firm Dykema opened its Minneapolis office a year ago, it had two attorneys on staff and few potential clients who could correctly pronounce the firm’s name.
Today there are 10 lawyers in Dykema’s 40th-floor office in the Wells Fargo building, with plans for adding 15 more yet this year and having as many as 40 on the roster by the end of 2015.
As for the firm’s name, pronounced DYKE-eh-mah, clients don’t need to be corrected as much anymore.
For Dykema in Minneapolis, it’s all about marketing.
“We’re playing offense,” said Joe Roach, the Minneapolis managing member for Dykema and a former Briggs & Morgan attorney. “We’re a small office in a big firm. We need that entrepreneurial spirit.”
When Dykema recruited Roach and Reed Heimbecher, a top patent counsel for St. Jude Medical Inc., the firm already had clients in the Twin Cities who said “it would be nice if you had an office here,” according to Roach.
But Roach also brought clients with him to the new office, as did Heimbecher, who brought St. Jude Medical’s intellectual property work.
“We had the resources to keep the ball rolling,” Roach said. “Since then we’ve been actively looking for lawyers with their own books of business and lawyers to help support existing business.”
Among additions to the Dykema staff in Minneapolis are veteran civil litigators Timothy Kelly and Brian Melendez.
Dykema’s presence in Minneapolis is emblematic of a regional trend in which national law firms have established footholds in the Twin Cities to take advantage of the area’s relatively strong business environment. The metro area has 18 Fortune 500 companies and offers potential clients in financial services, technology and medical devices.
More than a dozen out-of-state firms have set up shop in Minneapolis in the past five years, either through a merger with a local firm or through the recruitment of lawyers at other Twin Cities firms.
The out-of-town firms include Indianapolis-based Barnes & Thornburg, which merged with the Parsinen law firm in 2009, and Philadelphia-based Cozen O’Conner, which opened a Minneapolis office last year with attorneys from Hinshaw & Culbertson.
‘Midwest came on the radar’
“The Midwest was not hit as hard as the East and West coasts during the economic downtown. A lot of national firms started looking to see where business was still being done and the Midwest came on the radar,” said Jodi Standke, head of the legal recruiting and leadership training firm Talon Performance Group.
“It used to be difficult to get a foothold in Minnesota because businesses tended to work with their neighbors on legal matters,” Standke added. “But business isn’t done that way anymore. Businesses want to work with the best. It’s a global economy now.”
Dykema, named after Raymond Dykema, one of the firm’s founders in 1926, is a national firm with 400 attorneys and 13 offices. Its key practice areas include financial services, energy, business services and intellectual property.
In Minneapolis, practice areas include litigation, business transactions and intellectual property.
When the office opened its doors, Roach said he knew that marketing was key to bringing new business in the door even though he and Heimbecher brought a number of clients with them and Dykema already had clients in town.
“We needed to be involved in the community so we helped out local nonprofits, provided pro bono services to women’s shelters and homeless shelters and business start-ups. We went to business organizations — the Economic Club of Minnesota, the Chamber of Commerce, the Association of Corporate Growth. I challenged everyone [in the firm] to be active,” Roach said.
The Minneapolis office of Dykema also hired legal marketing guru Terrie Wheeler to provide coaching. Wheeler had worked with Roach on marketing techniques more than 15 years earlier when he was a beginning lawyer.
“It’s not always about revenue in the door,” Wheeler said in an interview. “It’s about building name recognition that is tied to Dykema. It’s about how many times are you getting out of the office to meet perspective clients and build relationships.
“If you bring a bunch of New York attorneys into a Minneapolis office, it doesn’t work so well,” Wheeler said. “We still want people who can relate to us.”