"The opportunity to bring Axe & Ecklund on board was a big coup for us," says Marita Grobbel, Clark Hill's group director of Banking and Finance.

DALLAS – Detroit-based law firm Clark Hill is expanding its public finance reach in Michigan with the acquisition of competitor Axe & Ecklund.

Grosse Pointe-based Axe & Ecklund is ranked ninth this year among firms doing bond counsel business in the state, with nine deals valued at $140 million, and finished fifth last year, according to Thomson Reuters data. Clark Hill in the eighth spot this year with seven deals valued at $149 million and finished seventh in the same table last year.

Clark Hill has Michigan offices in Grand Rapids, Lansing and Birmingham, plus eight other national locations.

The acquisition fits in with Clark Hill's overall strategy of expanding its public finance practice in the state, the firm says.

"The opportunity to bring Axe & Ecklund on board was a big coup for us because they have been in business for a very long time and have business and exposure across the state," said Marita Grobbel, the practice group director of Clark Hill's banking and finance group.

John Axe joins Clark Hill as senior counsel and Peter Ecklund joins the firm as a member; three staff members are also coming over.

Axe has more than 50 years of experience as a practicing bond attorney and financial consultant on municipal issues. He is also a co-author of Michigan Municipal Law, a two-volume work published in 1981 by the Institute of Continuing Legal Education for the University of Michigan.

In 1992, he was appointed as a member of the Permanent Adjunct Faculty of the Wayne State University Law School where he teaches public finance. In 2012, Axe was appointed to the Michigan Judges Retirement Board by Gov. Rick Snyder and in 2013 was tapped to serve on the Pontiac School District Financial Review Team.

Ecklund's practice includes representation of counties, cities, villages, townships, utility authorities, and tax-exempt organizations advising on deals, ordinances, millage, and legislative drafting.

"Public finance is an area that we think has tremendous expansion opportunity especially with what is happening with infrastructure both in the state and nationally," said Grobbel.

Clark Hill is eyeing other candidates in the public finance space to bring on board at firm nationally. Earlier this month the firm hired Ernesto Lanza in Washington, D.C.  Lanza was previously the deputy executive director for the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board.  "Our goal is to grow smartly," said Grobbel. "We are looking for good cultural fit for the firm and geographies where we can actually support a public finance practice."

Subscribe Now

Independent and authoritative analysis and perspective for the bond buying industry.

14-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.