Patton Boggs and Squire Sanders nearing decision on merger

May 21, 2014

Partners at Patton Boggs and Squire Sanders are coming close to completing their vote on the proposed combination of the two firms.

The 300-attorney law and lobby firm Patton Boggs has been in merger talks with the 1,300-lawyer Squire Sanders since February, and the combination is widely viewed as a way for the struggling Patton Boggs to stabilize its business after losing dozens of partners and watching revenue fall significantly since 2012.

Patton Boggs partners are nearing an official approval of the merger, and Squire Sanders partners are scheduled to complete their vote by Friday, according to people with knowledge of the situation. The combined firm would be called Squire Patton Boggs. If approved, the deal would be the biggest law firm merger so far this year based on the size of the smaller of the two combining firms, said Ward Bower, a principal at legal consulting firm Altman Weil who specializes in law firm mergers and acquisitions.

By the time a law firm merger is put up to a vote, most of the heavy lifting– such as checking for client conflicts and reviewing the revenue that each partner is expected to generate — is already completed. In most law firm mergers, the firms’ executive committees approve the deal first and make a recommendation to the broader partnership, which then has a chance to vote. All partners who have ownership stake in the firm get a vote. Partners typically have a two- or three-day window to vote for or against the deal, mostly to accommodate for partners across global offices who are in different time zones, Bower said. Law firm management frequently publishes a term sheet that partners can review before voting, which spells out the terms of the deal such as what management governance of the combined firm would be, and what compensation would look like.

 Votes are usually written or electronic, and most partnership agreements require at least 60 percent of partners to approve the deal in order for it to move forward.

Catherine Ho covers law and lobbying for the Capital Business section of The Washington Post. She previously worked at the LA Daily Journal, the Los Angeles Times, the Detroit Free Press, the Wichita Eagle and the San Mateo County Times.
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