Partners in Dallas-based Hughes & Luce and Kirkpatrick & Lockhart Preston Gates Ellis of New York voted Monday to combine the two firms as of Jan. 1, 2008, creating a 1,539-lawyer firm in 23 offices in the United States, Europe and Asia.
Edward O. Coultas, managing partner of the 149-lawyer Hughes & Luce, says his firm's partners voted nearly unanimously in favor of the deal. Peter Kalis, chairman and managing partner of the 1,390-lawyer K&L Gates, says all 313 equity partners in the firm voted in favor of the deal. Coultas and Kalis each characterize the deal as a combination, and not an acquisition.
The firm will be known as Kirkpatrick & Lockhart Preston Gates Ellis.
Negotiations started in the early spring, and the firms announced the talks in July. At that time, Coultas said talks began when Robert Wolin, K&L Gates' administrative partner in Dallas, approached Mark Shank, Hughes & Luce's hiring partner.
Coultas says the combination with K&L Gates is a win-win for his firm, because the firm and its clients will have access to a global network of lawyers at K&L Gates.
"It removes any question of a platform issue, and we really like this firm, the people, the quality of lawyers. It's the expertise we will have at our fingertips," Coultas says.
Hughes & Luce has offices in Dallas, Fort Worth and Austin.
As of Jan. 1, Coultas will serve on the management committee of K&L Gates and also become one of eight members of the firm's executive committee. Also, following the combination, Hughes & Luce partners Jack Erskine, Scott Bernhart and Craig Budner will be the K&L Gates administrative partners in Austin, Fort Worth and Dallas, respectively.
Kalis says the combination is a big positive for K&L Gates, because it creates "enormous opportunity" as a destination for work created at the firm and a source of work for other offices.
"Texas is a strategic market that is underserved by firms with credible, three-continent platforms, and by that I mean firms that are built out across the U.S., from the East Coast to the West Coast and firms that have critical mass in Europe and ... the greater China market," he says.
K&L Gates currently has about 35 lawyers in its Dallas office, which opened in 2001.
The combination with Hughes & Luce will be K&L Gates' second big deal within a year. On Jan. 1, Kirkpatrick & Lockhart Nicholson Graham merged with Preston Gates & Ellis to form K&L Gates.
Back in 2001, Pittsburgh-based Kirkpatrick & Lockhart moved into Dallas by merging with Wolin, Ridley & Miller, a 14-lawyer firm. All of the lawyers from that firm joined Kirkpatrick & Lockhart in Dallas.
In 2006, at Hughes & Luce, profits per partner averaged $574,000 and revenue per lawyer averaged $527,000, according to Texas Lawyer's Annual Report on Firm Finance, published April 30.
According to the Am Law 100 report published by The American Lawyer, an affiliate of Texas Lawyer and Law.com, PPP averaged $780,000 at Kirkpatrick & Lockhart in 2006, and RPL averaged $605,000.