Law firm merger called off over client conflicts

December 1, 2013

Merger talks between Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman and Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe — which would have created one of the largest law firms in the world — have been called off, the firms said last week.

The firms cited client conflicts as the main reason for the decision, saying in a joint statement that they “will not be able to proceed due to prospective client conflicts that we have not been able to resolve.”

The union of Pillsbury and Orrick would have created a behemoth firm with 1,700 lawyers and a combined revenue of about $1.4 billion. The potential merger was one of several being talked about in the legal industry over the last quarter, as major law firms increasingly turn to mergers as a growth strategy amid a flat demand market for legal services.

“Large law firm combinations are always complex, and both our firms are disappointed that we could not clear the way for a merger,” Orrick Chairman Mitch Zuklie said in the statement.

The decision was reached prior to putting the matter up to a vote before partners of both firms.

D.C. gets its first benefit corporation

The District’s first benefit corporation — a corporate form that combines the profit-seeking motive of traditional companies with the do-good mission of nonprofits — was established Nov. 21.

Aloetree, which makes children’s clothing and donates a portion of earnings to anti-child trafficking programs in Cambodia, adopted the form with the help of Georgetown Law students Rayna Wright and Donald DePass, who did the legal work through the law school’s new Social Enterprise and Nonprofit Law Clinic.

Companies that adopt the form typically amend their corporate charter to take on legal responsibility for doing social good, including making decisions that are best for their employees, supply chain and local community, and putting together an annual report outlining steps they’ve taken to make a positive social or environmental impact.

Benefit corporations have been gaining traction around the country in recent years. The D.C. Council earlier this year passed legislation allowing for the formation of benefit corporations, joining 18 states in passing such legislation since 2010.

Aloetree was founded by 2010 Georgetown law graduate Anbinh Phan, and operates out of Hive 2.0, a co-working space for entrepreneurs in Anacostia.

Catherine Ho covers law and lobbying for Capital Business, which she joined in 2011. She was previously a reporter at the Daily Journal in Los Angeles, covering LA civil courts and labor and employment law.
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