D.C. law firm in merger talks with Calif. group

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By Amanda Becker
Capital Business
Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Law firms Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld and Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe are exploring a merger, representatives from both firms confirmed Tuesday.

If the deal is completed, the combined firm would have more than 1,800 lawyers in offices across the United States, Asia, Europe and the Middle East, including more than 300 in the District.

Representatives from both firms described the negotiations as preliminary and declined to comment on the specifics of the deal or the likelihood of it moving forward.

"At this time it is premature and inappropriate to speak publicly in any detail about the process," Orrick spokesman David Schaefer said.

Legal industry experts say the firms' practice groups and geographic locations indicate that a marriage might be a good fit. District-based Akin Gump has a powerful energy industry practice in Washington, Texas and Moscow; San Francisco-based Orrick boasts a significant capital-markets practice in New York and serves technology clients from multiple offices on the West Coast.

"That would be a nicely balanced firm - and in very strong ways," said Peter Zeughauser of the Zeughauser Group legal consultancy, which is not advising either firm in the merger talks.

Orrick has considered several high-profile combinations in recent years, but none has been completed. In 2006, late-stage discussions broke down with New York-based Dewey Ballantine, which later merged with LeBoeuf, Lamb, Greene & MacRae to form Dewey & LeBoeuf. Most recently, Orrick withdrew from talks with London-based SJ Berwin.

Analysts say a successful merger would put the combined entity among the 10 most profitable law firms in the country, with more than $1.5 billion in gross revenue, according to figures reported by American Lawyer Media.

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