This Thanksgiving, give thanks that your firm… is no longer merging with another firm? Biglaw combinations that break apart like wishbones seem to be the big theme of this week.

On the heels of Orrick and Pillsbury parting ways, the partnership of McKenna Long & Aldridge just rejected the proposed tie-up with Dentons. As we’ve reported before, talks of a transaction have been going on for months.

So what led the McKenna Long partnership to spurn the advances of Dentons?

(Please note the UPDATE added below, comment from McKenna Long.)

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Why go big when you can supersize? As has been reported recently, one of Biglaw’s most aggressive firms in terms of growth, Dentons (née Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal and some foreign counterparts cobbled together just a few years ago), is now in serious discussions about a combination with McKenna Long & Aldridge. Both firms are products of recent tie-ups themselves, and the combined firm should the transaction go through will be instantly one of the world’s largest, at least in terms of number of lawyers. Welcome to the age of the global Megalaw franchise, in which a firm can raise its profile by connecting with other firms in the interest of getting bigger, all the while creating a new global brand in the process. Dentons is sure giving it a try.

It is actually unfair to say that Dentons is the Biglaw equivalent of McDonald’s, or even Burger King. Biglaw brands of that stature would be Baker & McKenzie or even DLA Piper, and not only because they are bigger….

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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….

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Back in February, we reported that Marc Zwillinger and Christian Genetski, who previously headed up the internet practice group at Sonnenschein, were leaving to start their own firm, Zwillinger Genetski LLP. The firm is only a few months old, but it’s already at seven lawyers — and growing.

The Blog of Legal Times reports:

New Internet law boutique Zwillinger Genetski is bulking up with the addition of three attorneys, including Yahoo! Inc. associate general counsel Elizabeth Banker. The new hires nearly double the size of the three-month old Washington-based firm, bringing its headcount to seven.

The usual migration is from a law firm to an in-house job (often for lifestyle reasons). But sometimes we see moves in the reverse direction. E.g., Daniel Cooperman, who went from Apple back to Bingham McCutchen; Bear Stearns refugees, who wound up at various firms.

Elizabeth Banker is just one of the three new hires at Zwillinger Genetski….

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Now that both partnerships have voted, the merger between Sonnenschein and Denton Wilde is a done deal. But the ride between now and the effective merger date of September 30th could still be bumpy.

The first bump is coming from Thacher Proffitt & Wood. As TPW was dissolving, Sonnenschein scooped up 100 lawyers from Thacher Proffitt. The partners involved received significant compensation packages.

According to The Lawyer, those well-compensated partners are now thinking of leaving Sonnenschein, before the merger…

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A few weeks ago, news broke that Sonnenschein would merge with the U.K.-based firm of Denton Wilde. Today the firms announced that partners on both sides of the Atlantic unanimously voted in favor of the merger. From the Sonnenschein press release:

The partnerships of Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal LLP (SNR) and Denton Wilde Sapte LLP (Denton) today voted in favor of combining to form SNR Denton. Launching on September 30, 2010, SNR Denton will have more than 1,400 lawyers and professionals in 18 countries, forming a top 25 legal services provider worldwide by number of lawyers and professionals. SNR Chairman Elliott Portnoy and Denton CEO Howard Morris will serve as co-CEOs of SNR Denton.

The merger will become official on September 30th.

Congratulations to SNR-Denton partners, associates, and other employees. Let’s hope there are no redundancy layoffs on either side of the ocean.

Earlier: 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…

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Incoming associates get really angry when firms rescind offers for full-time employment. As Lat said this afternoon here in the office, law students react “as if rescinding offers is like eating babies.” Incoming associates understand that the market remains tough, but these recruits still have harsh words for firms that pull offers.

We can understand the concern. Remember, during the NALP conference, Executive Director James Leipold said that he didn’t think Biglaw would be able to reabsorb all the people who have been displaced. It’s a bit like musical chairs — only if you aren’t in a seat when the music stops, you have to go into the back room and perform sexual favors for a debt-collector named Rocco.

And that’s how students feel when you rescind their offers in a timely manner. When you rescind offers at a late date … let’s just say we can incorporate all of the graphic imagery above, then add inappropriate scenes involving the mothers of rescinded offerees and goats. Recent graduates become unhinged when firms pull offers late in the season.

Well, in case some firms haven’t noticed, it’s getting pretty late in the season. Finals are upon 3Ls in some places; graduation is here in other places. People are preparing to study for the bar. This is no time for firms to get cold feet about offers relied upon in good faith.

So, we offer you this open thread. Let us know which firms are pulling offers as we head towards Memorial Day. We already know that there is some bad news for a few would-be incoming associates at Sonnenschein

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Sonnenschein logo.jpgBack in December, Sonnenschein announced the outlines of its new merit-based compensation structure. At the time, the firm promised its associates more details in March.
The firm is true to its word: we’re now in March, and we have more details. Above the Law talked with a spokesperson for Sonnenschein. Here’s the top line news:

  • First year compensation returns to $160,000 for first year associates.
  • 12% – 15% of that compensation will be paid out as a “base bonus” in 2011.
  • There are no hours or competency requirements to achieve the base bonus in 2011
  • 2010 raises for veteran associates will be in accordance with Sonnenschein’s merit based tier system

According to Sonnenschein, the decision to pay 12% – 15% of 2010 associate compensation as part of a 2011 bonus will help them transition to their new compensation model. The firm wants a greater percentage of total compensation to be paid out as merit-based, end-of-the-year bonus. That new system will be fully operational in 2011, so the firm is viewing 2010 as a transition year. Again, the firm emphasized to us that there would be no hours or merit requirements for associates to receive this 12% – 15% of 2010 money next year.
Sound good? Let’s see what the tipsters have to say.

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Sonnenschein logo.jpgToday is the last day at Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal for Marc Zwillinger and Christian Genetski — the chair and vice-chair, respectively, of SNR’s internet practice group. Their bios have already been removed from the Sonnenschein website (our links go to cached versions), and if you email them — as we did, to confirm the news — you receive an out-of-office auto-reply announcing their departure (and providing contact info for their new firm).

They’re leaving to start a boutique law firm, Zwillinger Genetski LLP, which opens for business on March 1. Zwillinger and Genetski will be joined by several associates and staffers who are currently at Sonnenschein.

“We are very excited about our new firm,” Marc Zwillinger told ATL. “As for our departure, it couldn’t be more amicable.”

How amicable? Let’s find out.

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