The Washington Post

Patton Boggs in preliminary talks to merge with Squire Sanders

Washington law and lobbying powerhouse Patton Boggs is in early merger talks with Squire Sanders, a much larger global law firm with roots in Cleveland.

The merger would create a 1,700-lawyer firm in 45 offices across 22 countries. Patton Boggs currently has about 380 attorneys.

Patton Boggs has been shrinking over the past two years as revenues slide, losing about 100 lawyers including a number of high-earning partners. Revenue fell 18 percent between 2011 and 2013, from $340 million to $279 million. The reductions led the firm to make two rounds of layoffs — shedding 40 attorneys and 70 staff members — and change its compensation system.

Late last year, Patton Boggs was in merger talks with Texas-based law firm Locke Lord, but it was called off.

Squire Sanders has about 1,300 lawyers in 39 offices in 19 countries.

“Discussions are in very early stages, and there is no assurance that a combination will be completed,” the two firms said in a joint statement.

Patton Boggs has been working to resize its operations to deal with the economic pressures that are affecting many big law firms. Managing partner Ed Newberry said this week that the firm plans to close its Newark office within the next six weeks because it is no longer as profitable as it once was.

The firm, known for its lobbying prowess, plans to continue trimming its number of equity partners — partners who own part of the firm and split its profits (as opposed to those who earn a salary). The firm had 98 equity partners as of November; that number has since fallen to 83 and will likely reach 70 by the end of the year, Newberry said in an earlier interview.

Capital Business is The Post’s weekly publication focusing on the region’s business community.

Catherine Ho covers lobbying at 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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