Biglaw, Killing Lockstep, Law Firm Mergers, Partner Issues, Sonnenschein

Law Firm Merger Mania: Sonnenschein to Merge with Denton Wilde

Sonnenschein isn’t going to let the recession slow down its expansion. Back during the heart of the recession, Sonnenschein saved around 100 lawyers from the sinking Thacher Proffitt.

Today brings news that Sonnenschein has expanded its reach across the Atlantic Ocean. The firm has proposed a merger with U.K.-based Denton Wilde, to form SNR Denton. From the new firm’s press release:

SNR Denton would be a top 25 law firm worldwide by size, with approximately 1,400 lawyers and fee earners on four continents, a presence in 18 countries, and its two largest offices in London and New York…

SNR Chairman Elliott Portnoy, who will become co-CEO of SNR Denton, said: “This combination is the next step in our vision to create an elite, client-focused international firm that is about one thing – quality. Both firms have long enjoyed reputations as being world class, and now together we’ll have the assets and professional resources to carry that forward to new sectors, new practices, and new markets. As one firm, we will be able to serve our clients better.”

‘Tis the season for transatlantic mergers? The Sonnenschein news comes on the heels of Ho-Love (a.k.a. Hogan Lovells) beginning operations…

The full partnerships of both firms will vote on the merger on June 9, 2010. If approved, the merger will become effective on September 30, 2010.

These transatlantic mergers seem like a good way to export merit-based compensation around the world. Am Law Daily reports that Sonnenschein will kill Denton’s system of lockstep partner compensation:

Portnoy says the combined firm–to be named SNR Denton–will transition Denton partners onto Sonnenschein’s merit-based compensation system and away from the lockstep system Denton uses to pay partners. (The newly-merged Hogan Lovells will make a similar change.) Portnoy and Denton CEO Howard Morris … will serve as co-CEOs of the newly combined firm.

If merit-based pay is coming to partners, you best believe Denton associates will also be getting a taste of Sonnenschein’s still amorphous merit-based compensation system.

But you don’t just have to read about the SNR Denton merger. You can hear about it on the new SNR Denton website. Don’t laugh at the clip-art-esque logo, they had to get the website up and running quickly.

You’re really going to want to check out the video here. It’s a “staged but casual” conversation about how awesome SNR Denton is going to be. I think they use the word “elite” upwards of 5,000 times.

And SNR Denton is wasting no time hitting the recruiting trail. Headhunters received this message from Portnoy almost as soon as the merger announcement went public:

I am very pleased to share news of a proposed combination that will establish SNR Denton as a new top 25 global firm with the power to attract and retain the best lawyers in the market.

The respective management boards of Sonnenschein and the UK-based Denton Wilde Sapte LLP have recommended to our respective partnerships that we combine to create an integrated, elite firm built on quality with worldwide reach and distinctive client focus.

After Sonnenschein acquired all of those Thacher Profitt lawyers, layoffs soon followed. But maybe SNR Denton is considering adding new talent? Brush up those resumes.

It’s an exciting time for both Sonnenschein and Denton. We wish them well, and can only hope that this is another sign that the recovery of the legal economy is well underway.

BREAKING: Sonnenschein, Denton Wilde To Merge [Am Law Daily]
Sonnenschein to Combine With Denton Wilde, Become SNR Denton [WSJ Law Blog]

Earlier: Sonnenschein’s New Compensation Potpourri Starts to Take Shape

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