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Saul Ewing Acquires Irvine, LA Law Firm

National law firm Saul Ewing, which has its roots in Philadelphia, aims for growth in California after merging with Freeman Freeman & Smiley, a prominent local firm with offices in Irvine and Los Angeles.

Terms of the deal were undisclosed.

Saul Ewing gained its first two offices in California as a result of the merger.
Under the arrangement, the Freeman Freeman & Smiley name will be phased out, while the lawyers from the local firm are staying in the original Freeman offices and have been fully integrated into Saul Ewing.

There are currently seven Freeman alumni in Irvine and 38 in Los Angeles who are part of Saul Ewing.

The various clients of Freeman are also expected to stay with Saul Ewing, which is looking for further expansion in California.

Saul Ewing now has more than 400 lawyers firmwide.

Valisa Carney, who joined Freeman about 20 years ago and is now OC managing partner for Saul Ewing, said the local lawyers’ specialties include estate planning, real estate and litigation.

“We would like to definitely have more litigators, business litigators and real estate people,” she told the Business Journal. “We would also want to bring in labor and employment attorneys.”

That would include work for executive compensation agreements, for example.

The deal with Saul Ewing “is a great move for our firm, because we certainly want to grow,” Carney said. “I believe we’re going to have more offices throughout California.”
The deal, which was announced in August, has gone into effect.

SoCal Base

The new structure will lead to more growth for Freeman, which has been based in OC for more than 45 years and will maintain its office at 5 Park Plaza within the Jamboree Center “for the foreseeable future” where there is room to expand, according to Carney.

“There’s just a wealth of estate planning clients in this area and expanding out to San Diego and the Inland Empire as well,” Carney said. “We are extremely busy in the estate planning department and other departments as well.”

She wants to attract more senior associates to the firm for current and new clients.
The Freeman roster of clients includes Fortune 500 companies.

18 Offices

The Irvine and Los Angeles sites are the 17th and 18th, respectively, offices nationwide for Saul Ewing, which was established in Philadelphia in 1921.

Jason St. John, firmwide managing partner based in Baltimore, said Saul Ewing has “lots of interest” in California.

“We firmly believe that we’re going to grow on the Freeman Freeman & Smiley legacy in Orange County,” he told the Business Journal.

Many of Saul Ewing’s clients have substantial operations in California; the firm noted that it’s already handled more than 500 client matters in the state during the past three years.

“Firm leaders also see great potential to strengthen many existing relationships with contacts based in the state,” Saul Ewing said in a statement.

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Sonia Chung
Sonia Chung
Sonia Chung joined the Orange County Business Journal in 2021 as their Marketing Creative Director. In her role she creates all visual content as it relates to the marketing needs for the sales and events teams. Her responsibilities include the creation of marketing materials for six annual corporate events, weekly print advertisements, sales flyers in correspondence to the editorial calendar, social media graphics, PowerPoint presentation decks, e-blasts, and maintains the online presence for Orange County Business Journal’s corporate events.
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