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Harrisburg law firms merge: ‘No other opportunities like this’

Ben Ried and John B. Zonarich entertained merger proposals from other law firms. But none seemed as right as the union they unveiled yesterday between their respective Harrisburg firms, Mette Evans & Woodside and SkarlatosZonarich LLC.

“There were other opportunities,” Zonarich said in an interview with biznewsPA. “But there were no other opportunities like this.”

Zonarich and Ried, of Mette Evans & Woodside, described their firms as reinforcing each other’s strengths, creating a broader menu of services and adopting innovative approaches to legal practice.

“We immediately clicked on the idea that we don’t have to be like other firms,” Ried said.

Terms of the transaction were not disclosed. But as a result of the deal, the two firms are coming together under the Mette Evans & Woodside name and will operate as Mette.

What’s the opportunity: For starters, the merger creates a legal team of nearly 50 attorneys and support staff, doubling the size of each firm alone.

While the two firms overlap in a number of practices, such as banking, business, personal injury and employment law, SkarlatosZonarich brings new expertise in elder law, special needs planning and tax counsel.

Each firm also may bring better ways of doing things in certain areas, the two attorneys said.

“We’re going to be planning and deciding what the best practices are and melding things together and really strengthening, building, growing,” Zonarich said.

What’s the innovation: As an example, Ried pointed to a workplace practice that Mette adopted in January.

Under the program, all attorneys and staff enjoy a day off every other Friday, Ried said. Schedules are arranged so not everyone is out on the same Fridays.

“Initially we thought, ‘Law firms can’t do this. Our clients aren’t going to be happy. Attorneys aren’t going to be happy,'” Ried said. “But we’re making it work and it’s a great benefit.”

What’s the leadership: The combined firm will be led by a three-member board comprised of Ried, Zonarich and Tom Archer, who chairs Mette’s litigation practice group.

Kathy Speaker MacNett, a managing member at SkarlatosZonarich, is joining Mette as a shareholder.

What about the real estate: The two firms have moved in together at Mette’s office at 3401 N. Front St. in Harrisburg.

The firms are retaining a SkarlatosZonarich office outside Philadelphia in Trevose, but not SkarlatosZonarich’s roughly 12,000 square-foot office at 320 Market St. in Harrisburg, Zonarich said.

The background: The two firms are among Harrisburg’s oldest independent law firms.

Mette was founded in 1969, while SkarlatosZonarich dates back to 1977.

Both firms have acquired others in the past.

The most recent transaction was SkarlatosZonarich’s acquisition of Bucks County-based Harvey Abramson in 2022.

No additional acquisitions are on the horizon. But Ried did not rule them out, noting that Mette could be an attractive destination for established lawyers who want to focus on practicing law rather than running a business.

“What we have is just ideal in a lot of ways,” he said.

From left, Ben Ried and John B. Zonarich (photos/submitted).

Ben Ried and John B. Zonarich entertained merger proposals from other law firms. But none seemed as right as the union they unveiled yesterday between their respective Harrisburg firms, Mette Evans & Woodside and SkarlatosZonarich LLC.

“There were other opportunities,” Zonarich said in an interview with biznewsPA. “But there were no other opportunities like this.”

Zonarich and Ried, of Mette Evans & Woodside, described their firms as reinforcing each other’s strengths, creating a broader menu of services and adopting innovative approaches to legal practice.

“We immediately clicked on the idea that we don’t have to be like other firms,” Ried said.

Terms of the transaction were not disclosed. But as a result of the deal, the two firms are coming together under the Mette Evans & Woodside name and will operate as Mette.

What’s the opportunity: For starters, the merger creates a legal team of nearly 50 attorneys and support staff, doubling the size of each firm alone.

While the two firms overlap in a number of practices, such as banking, business, personal injury and employment law, SkarlatosZonarich brings new expertise in elder law, special needs planning and tax counsel.

Each firm also may bring better ways of doing things in certain areas, the two attorneys said.

“We’re going to be planning and deciding what the best practices are and melding things together and really strengthening, building, growing,” Zonarich said.

What’s the innovation: As an example, Ried pointed to a workplace practice that Mette adopted in January.

Under the program, all attorneys and staff enjoy a day off every other Friday, Ried said. Schedules are arranged so not everyone is out on the same Fridays.

“Initially we thought, ‘Law firms can’t do this. Our clients aren’t going to be happy. Attorneys aren’t going to be happy,'” Ried said. “But we’re making it work and it’s a great benefit.”

What’s the leadership: The combined firm will be led by a three-member board comprised of Ried, Zonarich and Tom Archer, who chairs Mette’s litigation practice group.

Kathy Speaker MacNett, a managing member at SkarlatosZonarich, is joining Mette as a shareholder.

What about the real estate: The two firms have moved in together at Mette’s office at 3401 N. Front St. in Harrisburg.

The firms are retaining a SkarlatosZonarich office outside Philadelphia in Trevose, but not SkarlatosZonarich’s roughly 12,000 square-foot office at 320 Market St. in Harrisburg, Zonarich said.

The background: The two firms are among Harrisburg’s oldest independent law firms.

Mette was founded in 1969, while SkarlatosZonarich dates back to 1977.

Both firms have acquired others in the past.

The most recent transaction was SkarlatosZonarich’s acquisition of Bucks County-based Harvey Abramson in 2022.

No additional acquisitions are on the horizon. But Ried did not rule them out, noting that Mette could be an attractive destination for established lawyers who want to focus on practicing law rather than running a business.

“What we have is just ideal in a lot of ways,” he said.

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