Law Firm Mergers

law firm merger small.jpgJust because it’s after Christmas it doesn’t mean that law firms are done with their holiday shopping.

A tipster reports an intriguing possibility about Texas powerhouse Locke Lord Bissell & LIddell and IP shop Morgan & Finnegan:

Locke Liddell is acquiring Morgan & Finengan. Don’t think it’s final yet.

Tipsters from both firms have heard the news, but obviously nothing has been finalized. Firm spokespeople could not be reached for immediate comment over the holidays.

Both firms appear to have been prudent during the economic crisis. We reported that Morgan & Finnegan lost a number of partners over the summer, while Locke Lord no-offered more than half of their summer associates. But we haven’t received any reports of wide scale associate layoffs at either firm.

That could change if this merger goes through. A tipster reports:

Rumor has it that Lock Liddell will be laying off a number of Morgan & Finnegan lawyers as part of the merger.

Is this a gift that Locke Lord will cherish? Or is it one that Morgan & Finnegan will want to take back to the store? We’ll keep you posted.

Earlier: Nationwide Layoff Watch: Morgan & Finnegan

Nationwide No Offer Watch: Locke Lord’s Sub-50% Offer Ratio

Thacher.jpgTalks between Thacher Proffitt and King & Spalding, a story we broke here, remain ongoing. From the Legal Times:

Atlanta-based King & Spalding is in talks to acquire most, but not all of Thacher Proffitt & Wood’s lawyers, say two sources aware of the discussions. In order to avoid dissolution, New York-based Thacher hopes to find a partner to acquire it, these sources say.

One New York legal consultant says the discussions have been ongoing for the past three to four months, and that the firms hope to reach an agreement by year-end. The consultant says King & Spalding is considering taking on about 100 of Thacher’s 195 lawyers, but that it’s not yet clear which practices and offices the 100 lawyers would come from. “There’s a tremendous amount of uncertainty about who’s going to be invited to the party,” says the consultant, who asked not to be named.

Not sure we’d call it a “party.” But the alternative to a K&S acquisition isn’t appealing:

[Thacher's] overall headcount is down more than 100 lawyers compared to last year — and so are its profits. Profits per partner fell more than 22 percent in 2007 to $1.02 million, according to the Am Law 200.

The firm has had a constant stream of high-profile departures, including its vice chairman Thomas Leslie, who decamped for Greenberg Traurig in October, and Washington managing partner Richard Schaberg, who left for Hogan & Hartson’s D.C. office last month. The New York consultant and another individual familiar with the discussions say that if the deal falls through, Thacher Proffitt will likely go under.

It’s worth noting that TPW has placed its New York headquarters up for sublease (as reported by Lindsay Fortado and David Levitt of Bloomberg). If TPW is seeking a subtenant for all five floors it leases at Two World Financial Center, then one has to wonder if the firm plans to continue operations (at least in its current form).

As for King & Spalding, it’s growing strategically, despite the downturn. The firm recently snagged three energy partners from Kirkland & Ellis. KS hopefully has room in the lifeboat for Thacherites seeking a new home.

To Avoid Dissolution, Thacher Proffitt Talks With King & Spalding [Legal Times via WSJ Law Blog]

Thacher Proffitt Puts Up New York Office Space for Sublease [Bloomberg]

King & Spalding Adds Three Energy Partners in Washington, D.C. [King & Spalding]

Bryan Cave LLP logo AboveTheLaw Above the Law blog.jpgThe spin that Powell Goldstein chairman James McAlpin always wanted was finally released in today’s Fulton County Daily Report (subscription). The official announcement blurs the lines between a “merger” between Bryan Cave and PoGo and an acquisition of PoGo by Bryan Cave, but the report is largely positive:

“This is a transformational event for us,” said Powell Goldstein’s chairman, James J. McAlpin Jr. “It propels us into a different league.”

PoGo gives up its name in the deal and cedes leadership to the St. Louis firm. (The firm will be Bryan Cave-Powell Goldstein for two years in Atlanta and simply Bryan Cave elsewhere.) In return, PoGo’s lawyers gain an international and national platform that expands the depth and breadth of their practice groups–increasing the firm’s resources in areas such as intellectual property and broadening its core areas of banking, finance, real estate and litigation.

Getting swallowed up by a much larger firm and losing a 100-year old name certainly has all the bells and whistles of an acquisition, but partners on both sides characterize the deal as a “combination.”

Some Bryan Cave partners, like their partners-to-be from PoGo, prefer to characterize the deal as a combination, not an acquisition–even though their firm will absorb the smaller one.

“It’s a combination, not a slash-and-burn acquisition,” said Kenneth L. Henderson, the Bryan Cave partner who’s overseeing the integration. Henderson was a member of the 170-lawyer New York firm Robinson Silverman, Pearce, Aronsohn & Berman that Bryan Cave acquired six years ago in its last major acquisition.

Whatever it’s called, PoGo associates really only care about their future job security. More on that after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Bryan Cave & Powell Goldstein ‘Officially’ Announce Merger
(Or Acquisition Or … Something)”

Powell Goldstein LLP Powell Goldstein Frazer Murphy.jpgWe reported earlier that Powell Goldstein is set to be acquired by Bryan Cave. We’ve been told to expect an official announcement from Bryan Cave on Monday.

PoGo has still not directly responded to ATL about the rumors that a number of associates, staff, and partners could be on their way out of the door. But we understand that they have sent around an internal email addressing some concerns in light of the merger information. A tipster tells us that the email offered the following clarifications:

1) Everyone has a job. This is a specific term of the deal.

2) BC wants to expand the Atlanta office. …

3) We have no problems at all with our finances. Credit is strong, bank relationships are strong, etc.

We have not gotten our hands on the merger agreement between PoGo and Bryan Cave. But the “promise” that every job is secured is encouraging. The email does not speak to our previous reporting that PoGo’s banks threatened to pull their credit line if a merger was not reached. But regardless of what could have happened, the firm’s contention that they are in a strong financial position is certainly worth noting.

The Chairman’s conference call after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Update: Powell Goldstein’s Internal Response to Bryan Cave Acquisition”

Powell Goldstein LLP Powell Goldstein Frazer Murphy.jpgHeller Ehrman and Thelen dissolved after big time mergers fell through. While our readers have been speculating on the next capitulation to the financial crisis, it seems that Powell Goldstein has narrowly avoided a full scale dissolution thanks to Bryan Cave. A tipster reports:

Powell Goldstein, which has been an prominent firm in Atlanta since 1909, will no longer exist next week. PoGo partners voted last week to approve an acquisition by Bryan Cave, and BC will announce the acquisition on Monday.

Bryan Cave did not return multiple calls requesting comment on the story. Meanwhile, a PoGo spokesperson said “I have nothing to report” when asked about the acquisition.

As we understand it, the union between Bryan Cave and PoGo is not a “merger” so much as it is a buy-out. Additional tipsters have reported that nobody from PoGo — not staff, not associates, not even partners — is safe. Equity partners could be let go early next week.

Putting together the rumors after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Bryan Cave to Acquire Powell Goldstein”

law firm merger small.jpgThe Lawyer reports that Allen & Overy might be in merger talks with Shearman & Sterling:

A&O is occasionally tempted by the thought of a market-busting merger. It approached Freshfields back in 2006, as exclusively revealed in The Lawyer (see story).

Senior partner David Morley is moving to New York next week for three months (see story). This is being taken in New York as proof that a deal is in the offing.

A&O has nicked a whole load of Shearman’s Germans – though by rights this ought to rule out a deal with the rest of the firm.

Shearman needs help. (Actually, this is incontrovertible.)

After the jump, could this actually happen?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Law Firm Merger Mania:
Allen & Overy + Shearman & Sterling = A&S&S??”

Thelen LLP new logo.jpgWhat’s going to happen to Thelen? That is the question many are asking in the wake of Heller Ehrman’s untimely demise.

As we have previously reported, Thelen has not yet been able to merge with another firm, while suffering through a slew of partner defections. They’ve even canceled their 2009 summer program.

Today brings more bad news for Thelen. Pillsbury announced that they have acquired Thelen’s China practice group:

[A] group of approximately 20 attorneys, including partners Tom Shoesmith, Meg Utterback, Joe Tiano and Lou Bevilacqua, to be based in Pillsbury’s Shanghai, Washington, DC and San Francisco offices.

This may not be as crippling as losing a rainmaking IP practice group like Heller did. But the losses are adding up for Thelen.

Thelen’s attempt to quell the rumors, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Is Thelen Next?”

Hughes Hubbard Reed LLP HHR logo.jpgWe mentioned that litigation boutiques would likely be big winners from the market collapse. Some small firms are already cashing in. The bankruptcy boutique of Luskin, Stern & Eisler has merged with Hughes Hubbard & Reed.

There was enough room on the Hughes Hubbard bandwagon for everybody at Luskin. All eight lawyers will be joining Hughes Hubbard’s bankruptcy practice, with name partner Richard Stern becoming the co-chair of the group.

The merger makes perfect sense if Hughes Hubbard is trying to position itself to capitalize on creditor actions coming out of the Wall Street meltdown. Of course, that is not what Hughes Hubbard says they are doing:

Hughes Hubbard says it is merely a coincidence that the deal was finalized after a week of heavy financial turmoil.

“We had wanted to do this for a while,” James Modlin, co-chair of the firm’s lateral hiring committee, tells The Am Law Daily. “Starting last summer, we realized the time was right to bolster our bankruptcy practice. Bankruptcy goes in cycles, and we were thinking this might be a boom time.”

Maybe Hughes Hubbard does own the world’s best Magic 8 Ball. However they planned this acquisition, they got the execution exactly right.

Hughes Hubbard Makes Timely Acquisition of Bankruptcy Boutique []

law firm merger small.jpgHere is yet another rumor — somewhat better sourced than the Thacher Proffitt / King & Spalding rumor, but a rumor nonetheless — about a possible law firm merger.

Word on the street is that Seyfarth Shaw is seeking a merger partner. This should not come as a shock, since Seyfarth has been stumbling a bit due to the downturn. As previously reported, the firm has pushed back start dates and trimmed its lawyer ranks.

The Seyfarth partnership recently returned from its retreat, where strategic opportunities were discussed. The scuttlebutt is that the firm is in “serious” merger talks with another firm of roughly equal size. Upon information and belief, that firm is Squire Sanders.

Seyfarth Shaw LLP logo AboveTheLaw Above the Law legal blog.jpgBoth firms hover around the 800-attorney mark. The product of their merger — nicknamed “S4″ by one tipster, standing for either “Seyfarth Shaw Squire Sanders” or “Squire Sanders Seyfarth Shaw” — would be a 1600-lawyer behemoth. The combination would give Seyfarth a coveted foothold in Bratislava.

squire snaders staff attorney offers.gifAssociate meetings were held in all Seyfarth Shaw offices earlier this afternoon. Associates were briefed on the retreat and told about ongoing merger talks with another firm. Details are scarce; the confidential nature of the merger talks was stressed to the associates “about a dozen times.”

Whether these talks will bear fruit is anyone’s guess. Lately law-firm merger talks have been falling at a high rate.

We’ll keep you posted. If you have any info to share, please email us. Thanks.

law firm merger.jpgThis is just a rumor, so take it with a grain — nay, a shaker — of salt. But we hear that Thacher Proffitt & Wood — which has been badly bloodied by the mortgage meltdown and Wall Street crisis, and has gone through multiple rounds of layoffs — is in “serious” merger discussions with King & Spalding.
The idea that TPW might be seeking a white knight shouldn’t be that surprising. Back in July, Thacher’s managing partner, Paul Tvetenstrand, had to deny rumors that the firm was headed for dissolution.
In his email, Tvetenstrand acknowledged that “[l]ike many firms in this unusual market we have had to take steps to adjust to the credit crisis.” One such step, of course, is to take refuge in the arms of someone who’s weathering the storm better. See, e.g., Merrill Lynch / Bank of America.
We reached out to both firms for comment. TPW didn’t get back to us. Kimberly Brooks, public relations manager of King & Spalding, had this comment:

It is our responsibility as a law firm to offer clients the highest level of service possible. As such, King & Spalding regularly explores opportunities that might provide for additional expertise and accessibility.

As a matter of policy, we do not comment on rumors in the market.

So they won’t comment on “rumors in the market” — but maybe some of you would like to? If you have additional insight into this rumor — it’s true, it’s false, it’s somewhere in between — feel free to email us. Thanks.

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