Law Firm Merger Mania

* “The people who are paying us say this is what we want.” When it comes to cross-border mergers, law firms aren’t becoming behemoths for the hell of it. The end goal is to be able to edge out the rest of the competition. [Wall Street Journal (sub. req.)]

* It’s been six weeks since Hurricane Sandy hit the east coast, and “[e]verybody wants to go back downtown,” but some Biglaw firms in New York City — firms like Harris Beach and Cahill Gordon — are still stuck in their temporary offices. [New York Law Journal]

* Following Jeh Johnson’s adieu to the DoD, drone-loving Harold Koh will be packing up his office at the State Department and returning to Yale Law to resume his professorship next month. [WSJ Law Blog (sub. req.)]

* According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the legal sector is employing 5,800 more people than it was at this time last year. We’d be in good shape if 40,000 people hadn’t graduated law school in May. [Am Law Daily]

* Another day, another wrist slap: Villanova Law has been placed on probation for by the Association of American Law Schools over its grade-inflation scandal. Does that even mean anything? [Philadelphia Inquirer]

* The Lanier Law Firm, known for its spectacular Christmas parties, hosted some country superstars at this year’s event. Guess we know where Faith Hill and Tim McGraw go for legal assistance. [Houston Chronicle]

* A slim majority of American adults think that federal government employees should just sit back, relax, and smoke a bowl instead of enforcing federal laws against marijuana use. [FiveThirtyEight / New York Times]

* “I’m sorry they are confused in the White House.” Puerto Rico’s statehood referendum received a majority of votes, but lawmakers say the results of the two-part plebiscite are too confusing to add a 51st state. [CNN]

We interrupt your regularly scheduled programming to bring you some important news about Middletons: she’s having a baby!

Oops, sorry, wrong Middletons. We’re talking about the Australian law firm, not the Duchess of Cambridge.

The long-running merger talks between K&L Gates and Middletons have borne fruit. The partnerships of both firms just voted to approve the transaction.

Let’s learn more about the shape of this new entity…

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* “Maybe in the future you could let us know when something as definite as that comes [at the last minute.]” It would appear Chief Justice John Roberts has yet again been angered terribly by a lawyer from the Department of Justice over policy changes. [CNN]

* G’day, mate! Perhaps Peter Kalis was telling the truth about his firm, because everything really is great at K&L Gates after last night’s announcement. Partners at the Biglaw firm just approved a merger with Australian firm Middletons. [WSJ Law Blog]

* The commission overseeing the revisions to Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code will focus their energies on labor and benefits. Aww, how nice of them to think of the little people. [Thomson Reuters News & Insight]

* The suit over job stats against Thomas Jefferson School of Law lives to fight another day. The school was “disappointed,” but probably not as disappointed as the students it allegedly duped. [National Law Journal]

* And speaking of disappointment, people are still pissed off about Case Western Law Dean Lawrence Mitchell’s defense of going to law school, aka “a full-throated defense of the indefensible.” [New York Times]

* If you’ve made a mistake on your law school application, fret not, because there’s a way to correct it. (Note: some would say the real mistake was applying in the first place.) [Law Admissions Lowdown / U.S. News]

* Another day, another lawsuit filed against the much-sued and oft-creepy Dov Charney. This time, an ex-store manager alleges the American Apparel CEO choked him out and tried to rub dirt in his face. [Huffington Post]

Law firm mergers seem to be popping up as frequently as, well, problematic emails between married generals and their gal pals. Just a week after SNR Denton’s three-way merger with international firm Salans and Canadian firm Fraser Milner Casgrain, we’re learning of another law firm combination with Canadian and European elements.

This morning brings word of a merger between the global law firm of Norton Rose and the international but U.S.-based law firm of Fulbright & Jaworski. As you may recall, Fulbright has been the subject of merger buzz before — including rumors that featured Norton Rose as suitor.

How big will the new firm be, and what name will it operate under?

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When we last checked in with SNR Denton back in May, the firm had just finished wiping its hands of a potential merger with Dewey, right before the failed firm’s LeBoeuf was officially cooked. But from what we know, SNR had the urge to merge with another firm since at least February. The firm’s desire to seduce another suitor has gone unsatisfied for almost a year, but it now appears that SNR Denton may finally have the chance to get its rocks off.

Today, we’ve got news that the firm plans to get down with not one, but two firms. Ooh la la! Which firms is SNR Denton wooing, and when is the merger set to take place, if approved? Let’s check out the details on this potential ménage à trois….

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Merge; merge; merge. It’s all we hear about from law firms these days.

But corporations do these things in both directions: Corporations do acquisitions, but they also do divestitures. Corporations merge, but they also de-merge.

If it occasionally makes sense for a corporation to divest itself of a business unit, or to split itself in two, then it surely also makes sense for law firms occasionally to divest themselves of practice groups or split themselves in two. But we almost never hear about those things. (A reader of this column tells me that he googled “law firm” and “de-merger” and found only this five-year-old announcement about a firm in the UK.) (Don’t complain about my shoddy research. That’s more spadework than goes into a typical one of these columns.)

So here’s the idea: You have a global mega-firm that combines a fine M&A practice with a great litigation practice. Just as corporations sometimes think that combined business units would have more value if pulled apart, the law firm decides that everyone would prosper if the litigation firm were spun off from the transactional practice.

Divestiture! It’s not a dirty word in the corporate world; why is it never spoken among law firms?

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Not so fast, Canellas…

* Yeah, about that huge bonus we were going to pay our ex-finance director — we realized how silly that was, so we’re not going to do that. Aww, don’t worry, Dewey & LeBoeuf, you’ll have plenty of other chances to look absurd. [Am Law Daily]

* Not only is Samsung suing Apple for patent infringement, but the company is also trying to get a do over by getting Judge Lucy Koh to throw out the original billion-dollar verdict over jury foreman Velvin Hogan’s alleged misconduct. [Bloomberg]

* “Small deals are easier to swallow, easier to integrate.” Regional firms like Carlton Fields and Adams and Reese are gobbling up smaller firms in what seems to be the latest trend in law firm merger mania activity. [Thomson Reuters News & Insight]

* Douglas Arntsen, the former Crowell & Moring associate who had to be extradited from Hong Kong after embezzling $10.7M from clients, pleaded guilty in exchange for a lesser sentence. [New York Law Journal]

* It’s tough to come up with appropriate whistleblower jokes given the background here. We’ll play it straight: Mike McQueary filed a defamation suit against Penn State, and he’s seeking $4M in damages. [ABC News]

* Jose Godinez-Samperio, an undocumented immigrant, is fighting for the ability to practice law in Florida, but the members of the state Supreme Court are literally trying to make it into a “federal case.” [Washington Post]

An ethical duty?

* Are you ready for some Supreme gossip? In remarks delivered at Colorado Law, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg predicted that the Defense of Marriage Act would be argued “toward the end of the current term.” [CBS News]

* Dewey’s version of trying to curry favor for the proposed $72M partner settlement? Filing a deposition transcript noting that others could’ve also been blamed for D&L’s downfall, but weren’t due to time constraints. Gee, thanks. [Am Law Daily]

* Novak Druce + Quigg and Connolly Bove Lodge & Hutz will merge to form Novak Druce Connolly Bove & Quigg, the 7th largest IP firm in the U.S. Guess seven name partners was a bit much. [Delaware Law Weekly]

* Michael McShane was nominated by President Obama to fill a judgeship in Oregon. If confirmed, he’d be one of the few openly gay judges on the federal bench, which, of course, would be fabulous. [Oregonian]

* The Institute for Inclusion in the Legal Profession wants the ABA to amend the Model Rules of Professional Conduct to include a duty to promote diversity. Because we clearly need a rule on that. [National Law Journal]

* Cindy Garcia, an actress from “Innocence of Muslims,” is suing, claiming that she was duped into the role under false pretenses. She wants the film removed from YouTube. Everyone else does, too, lady. [Bloomberg]

* A judge refused to issue an injunction against the California ban on foie gras, instead allowing a suit on the same topic to move forward. Oh mon dieu, judge, think of all the poor Francophiles! [San Francisco Chronicle]

* Joshua Morse III, former dean of Mississippi Law who defied segregation, RIP. [New York Times]

Kim Kardashian

* Apparently spring bonuses don’t make the Biglaw world go ’round after all. The annual Am Law midlevel survey is out, and satisfaction levels are up across the board. Maybe they’re happy to still be employed. [American Lawyer]

* When Dewey get to retire this used up, old D&L pun? Probably around the same time as that Howrey joke — never. Oh, and the firm asked a bankruptcy judge to approve its $70M partner “clawback” plan. [WSJ Law Blog]

* Oh mon dieu, it’s time for some law firm merger mania! DLA Piper, the second-largest Biglaw behemoth, proposed to French firm Frieh Bouhenic, and of course, the corporate boutique said “oui.” [Legal Week]

* Judicial efficiency: Judge Robert Hinkle says he’ll block Florida’s regulations on voter registration groups just as soon as an appeals court boots the state’s arguments. [Bloomberg]

* Judge Kenneth Lester Jr. will step down as judge in the George Zimmerman case after using “disparaging” language in a bail order. Zimmerman’s probably hoping that the third judge will be the charm for him. [CNN]

* Kim Kardashian settled her suit against The Gap over the company’s use of a look-alike actress in an Old Navy commercial. Sigh. She’ll keep getting paid, no matter what we do. [Hollywood, Esq. / Hollywood Reporter]

The last we heard from Fulbright & Jaworski and Pillsbury Winthrop, the former was busy conducting staff layoffs, and the latter was exploring on-shore outsourcing options. Today, we have bigger and more exciting news: the two Biglaw firms may be headed to the altar.

What would a combined firm look like? Fulbright has approximately 900 lawyers, while Pillsbury has a little under 700 lawyers. If the rumors are true, then we could be looking at a gigantic, global mega-firm — a veritable army of lawyers marching at roughly 1,600 strong.

But what stage are the firms’ merger discussions in? Is this a sure thing?

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