SZD Enters the Ice Age

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

Come January, the Schottenstein Zox & Dunn Company nameplate will disappear from 250 West St. in the Arena District, as the venerable law firm merges with Indianapolis-based Ice Miller.

SZD co-founder Ben Zox calls the change more sweet than bitter. "I care about the firm and its clients, and I think this will prove to be a good move," he says. "Clients hire lawyers, not law firms, and a law firm like ours is much more than the names that are in the firm."

Zox, 74, is senior counsel with the firm that launched in 1966 as Schottenstein, Garel, Swedlow & Zox. When civic titan Mel Schottenstein died in 1993, Zox stepped up to lead SZD. He says he's worked with Ice Miller over the years and "always came away impressed with their lawyers and with the firm itself."

Ice Miller wasn't SZD's first suitor. "Our firm has been identified by other firms previously," says SZD President Jim Davidson, "and I kind of know from those other conversations which were the hot buttons in terms of whether it makes sense to continue those discussions."

So why Ice Miller? "They're so much like us," Davidson says. "They think like us. They behave like us. Their attitude about client service is consistent with ours."

SZD has 90 attorneys and 76 other employees in its Columbus and Cleveland offices, plus a handful at SZD Whiteboard, which offers government relations, lobbying and technology consulting. Davidson expects Whiteboard to remain in Columbus. Ice Miller has offices in Indianapolis, Chicago and DuPage County, Ill., and an affiliate in Washington, D.C. The merged firm will have 314 attorneys and 358 other employees.

Phil Bayt will remain Ice Miller's chief managing partner. Davidson will be a deputy managing partner and lead the integration. After more than 27 years at the firm--the last 10 as president--he's "looking forward to spending more time practicing law."

Inevitably, some asked if money problems at SZD drove the merger. "The answer to that was ‘absolutely not,' " Davidson says. "There was no financial reason compelling this, or any other business reason. This was something we wanted to do."

Reprinted from the October 2011 issue of Columbus C.E.O. Copyright © Columbus C.E.O.