Cleveland-based firm expands its Chicago presence

By Melissa Birks

From about 5,000 square feet at 1 N. Franklin St. to more than 18,000 square feet at the Citigroup Center come April 1, Ulmer & Berne is solidifying its presence — and plans to grow — in Chicago.

A 101-year-old firm headquartered in Cleveland, Ulmer & Berne has a total of about 175 lawyers among its offices in Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati and Chicago. The firm signed a lease on 18,374 square feet at the Citigroup Center, 500 W. Madison St., in early February.

Managing partner Kip Reader, in an interview from Cleveland, said the eight-attorney Chicago office should be ready to move in by the end of March, with an official date of April 1.

The new Chicago office follows the firm’s growth here from two to eight attorneys last fall, bringing in partners Randall Lehner from Reed Smith LLP and Scott Meyers and David Porteous from Levenfeld Pearlstein LLC. The Citigroup location can accommodate a legal staff of nearly 30.

“I think it is a big deal,” Reader said. “We are Midwest regional law firm with clients with business activities in the Chicago area and existing Chicago clients…We are looking to add professionals in the next 12 to 18 months, if not sooner. We’ve talked to a number of good lawyers; people seem to have an interest in what we have to offer.”

The firm represents publicly traded and privately held companies, financial institutions, pharmaceutical companies, family businesses, international joint ventures and affiliations, investor groups, start-ups and emerging businesses, local and regional governments, and non-profit organizations, according to its Web site.

“We’ve had a small office [in Chicago] for several years,” Reader said of the Franklin Street site. “We liked the location and the building, but we needed more space.”

Using a Chicago broker, the firm considered several options for a new office, Reader said. The Citigroup location offered the best combination of a great deal and location, with the Ogilvie Transportation Center in the building and Union Station across the street.

“A number of our people liked that,” Reader said.

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