Leonard, Street and Deinard, a legal fixture in Minneapolis for the last 91 years, is merging with the Kansas City law firm Stinson Morrison Hecker to form one of the 100 largest law firms in the United States.

The new firm will be called Stinson Leonard Street, with major operations in each of the two cities where the firms are headquartered. The merger is effective Jan. 1, 2014.

"We believe the timing is right," said Lowell Stortz, the managing partner of Leonard, Street and Deinard who will become co-managing partner of the merged firm. "We're both coming off two very good years and realize our strategies are working quite well. This is a real opportunity."

The Stinson Leonard Street announcement, officially being made Monday, continues a merger trend that has become more and more common in American legal circles in recent years as economic and strategic pressures force law firms to consider new growth strategies.

According to the legal consulting firm Altman Weil, U.S. law firms are on pace for more than 70 mergers in 2013, the most since 2008 at the start of the Great Recession.

"U.S. law firms continue to grow, primarily through targeted acquisitions," said Altman Weil principal Ward Bower. "Firms are picking up specialty practices, expanding in strong markets and adding offices in new cities."

Leaders of the newly formed Stinson Leonard Street insist their merger is not "a merger of survival."

The combined firm jumps to 525 attorneys with offices in 14 cities covering the Midwest, mountain West, and Southwest, with two offices to be combined in Washington, D.C.

"We have a very similar approach on the business side. We're both fiscally conservative and we have no plans of going away," said Mark Hinderks, Stinson Morrison's current managing partner and comanaging partner of the merged firm.

'Big law is in transition'

The Leonard, Street and Deinard merger is at least the third significant law firm merger or acquisition in the Twin Cities in the last two years, the largest of which resulted in the creation of Faegre Baker Daniels at the beginning of last year.

"Big law is in such a transition," Minneapolis-based legal consultant Roy S. Ginsburg said after the FaegreBD merger.

The combined Stinson Leonard Street will have a solid presence in the lucrative banking and financial services market as well as in the fast-growing energy sector and business services.

Leonard Street's client list includes Mankato-based Taylor Corp. as well as Marvin Windows & Doors, Hubbard Broadcasting and NRG Energy.

Representative clients for Stinson Morrison include Bank of America, CenturyLink, H&R Block, Rawlings Sporting Goods and Hallmark.

Stortz said the two firms have for a number of years collaborated with other Midwestern law firms on noncompetitive legal issues.

"We've had a long history, and earlier this year as we reflected on that, it appeared this might be the right thing to do," Stortz said of the merger.

Combined revenue: $250M

According to the National Law Journal, Stinson Leonard Street will become the 75th largest law firm in the United States, based on the number of lawyers under their collective shingle.

The combined firm's 525 attorneys ranks third-largest among Twin Cities-based firms, behind FaegreBD with 753 attorneys and Dorsey & Whitney with 550.

With combined revenue of $250 million, however, the merged firm would not rank in the American Lawyer's top 100 firms as measured by revenue.

Leonard, Street and Deinard was established in Minneapolis in 1922 by George Leonard, Arthur Street, and brothers Amos and Benedict Deinard.

Stinson Morrison Hecker was formed in 2002 out of a merger involving two turn-of-the-century Kansas City firms, Stinson, Mag & Fizzell and Morrison & Hecker.