Biglaw, Law Firm Mergers, Partner Issues, Sonnenschein

Law Firm Merger Mania: Dentons And McKenna Long Are Talking

If you found the news of secretarial buyouts at McKenna Long & Aldridge to be a little underwhelming, fear not. Today we have more exciting developments to share with you about the firm.

As noted in Morning Docket, McKenna Long is in talks to combine with Dentons. The talks started four to five months ago, got serious in the past month or so, and could result in a completed transaction by January 2014. News of the talks was first reported last night by Am Law Daily.

Would a Dentons/McKenna Long combination really be a “merger”? Let’s discuss….

First, Dentons is much larger than McKenna Long. Dentons has about 2,500 lawyers, in 75 locations in more than 50 countries. McKenna Long has about 575 lawyers, and almost all of them are in the United States. So this sounds more like Dentons absorbing McKenna Long than a merger of equals. Don’t expect McKenna Long to show up in the new entity’s name (probably a good thing, since “DentonsLong” and “Long Dentons” both sound vaguely dirty).

Second, some industry observers argue that products of Verein structures — like Dentons, and presumably the entity that would result from some Dentons/McKenna Long tie-up — aren’t really unified law firms (or at least shouldn’t be treated as such for purposes of industry rankings). They’re more like separate entities loosely linked through referral arrangements, according to these critics.

Both Dentons and McKenna Long have complex lineages worthy of Game of Thrones (affiliate link). House Dentons emerged from the three-way merger of the international firm of Salans, the Canadian firm of Fraser Milner Casgrain, and SNR Denton — which was itself the spawn of the U.S. firm of Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal and the U.K. firm of Denton Wilde Sapte. Meanwhile, House McKenna came out of the 2002 combination of an Atlanta-based firm, Long Aldridge & Norman, and a D.C.–based firm, McKenna & Cuneo. Last year, McKenna Long absorbed the firm of Luce Forward.

Adding up the headcounts of Dentons and McKenna Long would produce a firm with more than 3,000 lawyers — enough to rank third in the world by headcount. But would all attorneys would remain on board after a deal? Probably not. Remember that McKenna Long lost some Luce lawyers after that combination. It’s not uncommon for lawyers to get laid off or to voluntarily depart in the wake of such a transaction (due to client conflicts, because they don’t like the new leadership or firm culture, because they’re not economically compatible with the new platform, or other reasons).

Would a Dentons/McKenna Long combination be a wise move for either or both firms? If you have information or opinions to share, feel free to post a comment, email us, or text us (646-820-8477).

Dentons, McKenna Long Confirm Merger Talks [Am Law Daily via Morning Docket]
Will Dentons’s Next Dance Partner Be McKenna Long & Aldridge? [WSJ Law Blog]
Dentons and McKenna Long are discussing a merger [ABA Journal]

Earlier: Bow Before The Global 100, The Top-Grossing Law Firms On The Planet
Voluntary Buyout Watch: McKenna Longs To Lower Headcount
Law Firm Merger Mania: SNR Denton Is Down With Three-Ways

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