Merger talk involves Morgan Lewis once more

Posted: July 24, 2014

Morgan, Lewis & Bockius L.L.P., of Center City, is reportedly among a handful of firms in merger talks with Boston-based Bingham McCutchen.

Morgan Lewis, already one of the nation's largest firms, with 1,400 lawyers, would grow to well over 2,000 if the firms combined.

Both firms declined to comment Tuesday. News of the discussion first emerged in a report by Reuters.

In the last year, Bingham McCutchen, with 850 lawyers, has gone through a leadership change and a decline in revenue.

The Boston firm reportedly has approached Morgan Lewis, as well as Winston Strawn, of Chicago, and other major national firms.

"We have engaged in talks with scores of firms during the past 20 years, some of which we have acted upon, most of which we have not," said Bingham McCutchen spokeswoman Claire Papanastasiou.

"We are always open to exploring opportunities, and we continue to selectively screen and evaluate them as they are presented to us. We continue to improve on important financial metrics. Our financial performance is very strong, and we are on track to have a much better year than we did in 2013."

Bingham grew rapidly over the last 15 years and was particularly successful after the 2008 financial collapse with its global restructuring practice and other areas of law. But some of the work began to recede even as costs increased, and the firm suffered a 12.7 percent decline in revenue in 2013.

Morgan, for its part, has been growing steadily, sometimes picking off large pieces of faltering firms, as it did in 2012 when it hired 60 lawyers from New York-based Dewey & LeBoeuf L.L.P., then on its way to bankruptcy. By picking up those lawyers, Morgan grew in England, Russia, and Kazakhstan.

In a similar recruitment plan, Morgan picked up 160 lawyers from Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison L.L.P., a California firm that dissolved in 2003, providing Morgan with a solid platform on the West Coast.

With demand for legal services relatively flat, the one sure path to growth for many firms is through mergers. But the process of melding two large firms is inevitably difficult and time-consuming, and many merger discussions hit a dead end as a result.


cmondics@phillynews.com

215-854-5957

@cmondics

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