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Venerable Area Law Firm Tyler Cooper Closing

By KENNETH R. GOSSELIN | Courant Staff Writer

September 10, 2008

Tyler Cooper, a venerable law firm with roots in central Connecticut dating from 1847, is closing, with half its lawyers leaving to form the first Connecticut office of a Rhode Island firm.

The 25 lawyers, including managing partner William S. Fish Jr., will open an office of Hinckley, Allen & Snyder, which has offices in Providence, Boston and Concord, N.H. The firm has wanted to expand into Connecticut for the past five years.

The new Connecticut office will open Monday and is expected to become a regional hub for Hinckley's financial services and bankruptcy work, two areas of expertise for which Tyler Cooper is known. The new office will occupy former Tyler Cooper space in downtown Hartford.

It also is expected that a second, smaller group of Tyler Cooper lawyers will soon announce they will be leaving to join another firm.

The Tyler Cooper name won't go away immediately. A handful of lawyers will remain to wind down business. It was unclear Tuesday how long that might last.

Fish said Tyler Cooper worked to expand the firm but found it difficult because clients increasingly want most of their legal work done by one firm. That meant that law firms needed to have an ever broadening range of expertise.

That gradually became more of a challenge for a smaller outfits such as Tyler Cooper, with its staff of 50 lawyers, 25 of them partners, and 100 employees overall.

It was difficult to compete with larger firms to attract lawyers with specialties in tax, employee benefits and executive compensation law, Fish said.

Hinckley offered an attractive alternative for the lawyers choosing it: a larger firm 122 lawyers, 77 of them partners, and 286 employees overall with a broader range of services, yet a similar collegial culture.

"At the end of the day, the legal market is changing, and if you don't change, you get left behind," Fish said.

Michael DeFanti, Hinckley's managing partner, said the block of lawyers, plus paralegals, secretaries and other staff, was an ideal way to enter Connecticut. Tyler Cooper's entire financial services and business services practice is going over to Hinckley.

"We have business in Connecticut and want to serve clients' needs in New England generally, and to do that, you have to be in Connecticut," DeFanti said.

Fish said the firm is proud of Tyler Cooper's long history, but "we are very excited about the opportunity to join Hinckley and the opportunity that it provides for our clients."

The firm's closing could mean a handful of layoffs among the Tyler Cooper staff, Fish said.

Tyler Cooper known for years as Tyler, Cooper & Alcorn was formed in 1983 with the merger of Tyler, Cooper, Grant, Bowerman & Keefe, of New Haven, and Alcorn, Bakewell & Smith, of Hartford.

Each firm traced its lineage to the mid-1800s and catered to the corporate trade.

In the 1930s, H. Meade Alcorn Jr. joined his father's law practice in Hartford at what would become Alcorn, Bakewell & Smith in 1955. Alcorn rose to prominence in legal circles and as a leader in the Republican Party. He is credited with persuading Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower to join the GOP and run for president.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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