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July 21, 2011 12:07 PM

The Lateral: Heavy-Hitting Sports Lawyer Jacobs Joins Husch in Denver

Posted by Tom Huddleston Jr.

Paul_Jacobs_blogLast week Paul Jacobs was running Jacobs Chase, a 28-attorney firm in Denver, with a history of major sports deals. As of this week, Jacobs, 71, is of counsel at Husch Blackwell, an Am Law 100 firm that on July 14 hired Jacobs and 23 attorneys from the firm he cofounded.

A Boston native, Jacobs is known in Denver as one of the driving forces behind the city’s successful bid for the Major League Baseball expansion team that ultimately became the Colorado Rockies. He served as the Rockies' executive vice president and general counsel from 1991 to 1995.

Since then Jacobs has acted as lead negotiator for the City of San Diego in its bid for a $1 billion redevelopment project that included Petco Park, where MLB's Padres play their home games. He also represents the City of Oakland in its efforts to build a new baseball stadium for the Athletics, and Ramsey County, Minn., in its plans for a new football stadium for the National Football League's Minnesota Vikings. 

The decision by Jacobs and his colleagues to move en masse means that, for all practical purposes, the firm he and some fellow former Holme Roberts & Owen partners launched in 1995 ceases to exist. 

The move to 620-lawyer Husch Blackwell--whose Denver presence is now 41 lawyers strong--offers the 23 attorneys who work for Jacobs greater reach in terms of geography and expertise. It also offers Jacobs himself an opportunity to shed some of the administrative tasks that come with operating a business in favor of doing more mentoring and legal work--which, he says, is “where all the fun is.”

The Am Law Daily talked with Jacobs when the move was announced about his thoughts about jumping to a new firm, the practice of law, and his rooting interests when it comes to sports.

Was this something you pursued or planned?

I believe we started talking to [Husch Blackwell] in early March. Actually, when they formed their office here [in 2008], they hired a couple of people from Holme Roberts who we [the Jacobs Chase cofounders] knew well, and they approached us then. At that time, we didn't have any interest. This year we decided to listen to overtures from other firms and we included them in the mix, because we have great respect for the people they hired, and it came out that way. 

How do you see the merger benefiting Jacobs Chase and its clients?

From a geographical point of view, we thought it would be advantageous to have the ability to bring resources to bear [on other] parts of the country. And basically we're talking about the Midwest. Most of the stuff that we do is either Rocky Mountain or Midwest, so we don't generally touch the coast(s). 

So, it's geographic, plus it's a resource reach that would take us a long time to build internally. For example, we're doing a lot of work in senior housing right now. I didn't have a health care group, so that's a big plus for me. Same thing with tax expertise. I didn't have the breadth of tax expertise that I really need to support the other things that we're doing. 

What has been the reaction from your clients?

I don't know that we've had anybody [who said], 'No, I don't want to go with your new firm.' The reaction has been good, particularly among those who are doing business out of state and among those who are growing and view their needs as maybe requiring services that we didn't have. The way we always did it in the past was, if I needed an environmental lawyer or I needed an ERISA lawyer, we would call up the best ERISA lawyer in town and we'd hire him. We don't have to do that anymore. We've got it all in-house and I don't have to worry about other people's conflicts--or other people trying to steal my clients.

You've been at firms of varying sizes over your career, as well as in-house with the Rockies. Now that you're at your largest firm yet, how do you expect your day-to-day role to change?

Well, I was running Jacobs Chase. I'm no longer doing that, in terms of the administrative side of it. So from my point of view, it frees up a lot of time for what I like to do and for what I ought to be doing for [Husch Blackwell], which is transitioning my clients, helping the younger guys get new clients, and doing legal work--which is really where all the fun is. So, I think it will allow me to spend more time mentoring some of the younger lawyers and just giving advice inside the firm and helping those guys be successful. That's my goal: I want to make everybody here famous. I don't have another 20 years left, but I have a lot of good years left. 

You’re a Boston native and Red Sox fan who is known as a leading force behind the Colorado Rockies, who made it to their first World Series in 2007 only to be swept by the Red Sox. With such fierce loyalties pulling you from both sides, who did you root for?

I was absolutely torn up. I went back to Boston [when the Red Sox won in 2004] when they played the Cardinals and went back to Fenway--which was the first time I'd been there in quite a while. But when the Rockies played the Red Sox here I literally did not know what to do. So I did not go back to Boston. I rooted for the Rockies here, and I went and I visited with some of the Red Sox executives. So I was very frustrated that the first World Series would be against the Red Sox, but so be it. I root for the Red Sox against anybody but the Rockies.

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