Biglaw, Law Firm Mergers, United Kingdom / Great Britain

Law Firm Merger Mania: Squire Sanders and Hammonds Tie the Transatlantic Knot

Peter Crossley of Hammonds and James Maiwurm of Squire Sanders

A hot trend for the law firm world in 2010: transatlantic mergers. This year we’ve seen the creation of Hogan Lovells, from Hogan & Hartson and Lovells, and SNR Denton, from Sonnenschein and Denton Wilde. Today we learn of a third U.S./U.K. law firm merger: the combination of Squire, Sanders & Dempsey and the British firm of Hammonds, to form a behemoth with 1,275 lawyers in 37 offices and 17 countries (according to the merged firm’s new website).

The merger was approved by both partnerships over the weekend and will take effect on January 1, 2011. The combined entity will be in the top 25 firms by number of lawyers, with gross revenue of $625 million (based on 2009 figures).

As you may recall, not everyone was a fan of this merger. The famously outspoken John Quinn of Quinn Emanuel, for example, characterized it as “[t]wo rocks that think if they hug each other tight enough they won’t sink.”

But enough of the Debbie Downer sentiments. Let’s look at all the positive aspects of this transaction, shall we?

Although it’s being described as a merger, it does sound like Squire Sanders is in the driver’s seat. The post-merger firm will operate under the Squire, Sanders & Dempsey name (except in jurisdictions where Hammonds has a presence, where the firm will be called “Squire Sanders Hammonds” — note how Squire’s name still comes first). The new entity will be led by Squire Sanders chairman James Maiwurm, who will serve as global chair and CEO. Hammonds managing partner Peter Crossley gets the consolation prize of managing partner for Europe.

(Well, we did defeat the Brits in the Revolutionary War, then saved their asses in one if not both world wars. So it’s only fair that SSD gets naming rights, right?)

So what are the advantages of this merger? They’re laid out in detail on the new firm’s website. For example:

Breadth and Depth. The client base of our global legal practice spans every type of business, both private and public, worldwide. We advise a diverse mix of clients, from Fortune 100 and FTSE 100 corporations to emerging companies and from individuals to local and national governments. In the private sector, we provide the full range of legal advice required to implement practical strategies and resolve disputes. In the public sector, we counsel governments on privatization of whole industries and on establishment of regulatory systems under which new private businesses can compete. We also serve the regional needs of the countries and cities we call home.

This is quite well-written, although it does sound a bit like trying to be all things to all comers. Feel free to discuss specific areas of strength for the new firm, in the comments to this post.

Business Has No Borders. Squire Sanders will operate as a “one-firm firm” rather than a loose confederation of separate offices or practices. With 1,275 lawyers in 37 offices located in 17 countries on four continents, our global legal practice will be in the markets where our clients do business. We will also have strong working relationships with independent firms in Europe and the Middle East, as well as the Squire Sanders Legal Counsel Worldwide Network, which includes independent firms across Latin America.

Globalization is a powerful force, and it sounds like the new firm recognizes this. But it’s worth noting that the post-merger Squire Sanders will still retain some aspects of the “legacy” firms, according to Am Law Daily:

The combined firm will use a Swiss Verein structure used by many large international law and accounting firms when combining global operations. The structure was adopted by SNR Denton and Hogan Lovells after the completion of their transatlantic mergers this year.

As explained in the New York Law Journal, the Verein model is “a Swiss-born structure that creates separate partnerships within the firms, limiting liability but also raising questions of how effectively the firms will be able to integrate their lawyers.”

For still more detail on Squire Sanders + Hammonds, see this comprehensive write-up by Brian Baxter on Am Law Daily. For additional thoughts on what might be fueling all the recent law firm mergers, see Ashby Jones’s post on the WSJ Law Blog.

Good luck to Squire Sanders (or Squire Sanders Hammonds, in selected jurisdictions). May you not just float, but may you cruise on to success worldwide, in 2011 and beyond.

Merger Mania Continues: Squire Sanders to Merge with UK’s Hammonds [WSJ Law Blog]
Squire Sanders, Hammonds Partners Approve Merger [Am Law Daily]
Squire Sanders and Hammonds [official website]

Earlier: Tweet of the Day: John Quinn on a Possible Squire Sanders / Hammonds Merger

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