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Patrick Springer, Published April 03 2012

Fredrikson & Byron rises to No. 2 law firm in North Dakota

FARGO – Four lawyers and five paralegals recently left the Vogel Law Firm and joined Fredrikson & Byron, a firm based in Minneapolis with offices in Des Moines, Iowa, and Bismarck, as well as China and Mexico.

The move, which took effect Saturday, appears to have catapulted Fredrikson & Byron into second place among law firms in North Dakota, with 23 attorneys among its total of 260, according to the firm.

The Vogel firm remains the largest in the state, with 31 lawyers in North Dakota, six in Moorhead and one in Minneapolis, according to attorney listings on its website.

Joining Fredrikson as officers are William L. Guy III and F. John Williams III. Attorneys Jessica L. Foss and Amy L. Jenson joined as associates.

Fredrikson’s North Dakota presence has grown rapidly since it opened an office in Bismarck five years ago and established its Fargo office two years ago.

All of the lawyers who left focused on trust, estate and probate law, with some also doing business planning law.

The move came when a lawyer from Fredrikson & Byron contacted Guy in January to discuss the possibility of switching firms.

“It was clear to me that Fredrikson has always been the best trust and estate firm in the whole region,” Guy said Tuesday.

The ability to consult with fellow lawyers with expertise in sophisticated areas of trust and business law made the move attractive, he said.

“This would be just wonderful for our group and our clients,” Guy added. Five paralegals and four administrative assistants also switched firms, with a total of 13 lawyers and supporting staff making the move.

Many clients have indicated they will stay with the lawyers who switched firms, Guy said.

Steven Johnson, president of the Vogel Law Firm, said the firm’s “foundation is solid,” and noted it was established in 1880, now with offices in Fargo, Bismarck, Minot and Williston in North Dakota as well as Moorhead and Minneapolis in Minnesota.

“Although disappointed in the decision made by those attorneys, Vogel Law Firm continues to maintain an active estate and probate practice, in addition to a wide variety of legal services,” Johnson said in a statement.

John Koneck, president of Fredrikson & Byron, said the firm, which bills itself as “where law and business meet,” is interested in continuing to expand its presence in North Dakota, where the economy is booming from oil and gas development.

Fredrikson & Byron’s Bismarck office, started by Lawrence Bender, now has grown to 12 or 13 lawyers, with a primary focus on oil and gas law.

The firm’s Fargo office already has hired a lawyer who will start in June, and likely will need more space, since its offices in the Dakota Center on Broadway in downtown Fargo are full.

When attorney John Strinden and two colleagues joined Fredrikson & Byron two years ago – leaving the Fargo office of Dorsey & Whitney, another large Twin Cities firm – the understanding was the firm would seek to grow in North Dakota, he said.

“We thought the fit was right for us,” Strinden said. “The needs of the business community have become much more sophisticated.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Patrick Springer at (701) 241-5522

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