Baker McKenzie is actively targeting a U.S. merger as the international firm seeks to ramp up its presence in the North American legal market.
In particular, the firm is looking to expand its footprint in New York and Los Angeles by way of a tie-up with a domestic firm looking to go global.
“We are looking for a merger partner in the U.S.,” global chairman Paul Rawlinson told Law.com’s London-based publication Legal Week. “We are seeing interest from strong U.S. firms that have little international coverage that approach us to say ‘we want to go global.’ It’s a question of when, not if.”
Rawlinson said this has always been the firm’s strategy, but it is now seeing increased interest from domestic U.S. firms. “The sort of firms we’re interested in talking to are those with a head count bandwidth of anything from between 200 lawyers up to 1,000, which have a good industry focus match with us and an interesting footprint in New York,” he said.
The firm’s immediate priority is to expand in markets, including New York and Los Angeles, with lateral hires. In the past two years, it has recruited 55 lawyers in North America, including 19 in New York.
“We’re pursuing all options from a client-driven mindset,” said Baker McKenzie North America Chairman Mike Wagner. “When we looked at California it was clear that from conversations with clients that we needed significant strength in southern California, and we took a major step toward that with our Los Angeles opening this spring. It’s a question of deepening an already strong team with greater bench strength, whether that’s with groups of laterals or something more transformational.”
Baker Mckenzie relaunched a Los Angeles office earlier this year with the hire of five Hogan Lovells lawyers in California.
Other North American pickups at Baker McKenzie so far this year include former McDonald’s general counsel Gloria Santona to its Chicago base, and former Dechert funds partner Karl Egbert to its New York office. The firm also promoted 19 new partners in North America at the start of the year.
The commitment to U.S. growth comes after the firm announced a solid set of financial results, with revenue and profit per equity partner (PEP) climbing to new heights in 2017-18.
Baker McKenzie’s turnover in dollars jumped more than 8 percent year-on-year for the financial year ending June 30, while profit PEP climbed 13 percent to reach $1.44 million (£1.1 million). The hike represents the first time that global PEP has cleared £1 million in sterling.
The global giant is the latest international player to target the world’s largest legal market via a merger.
Magic Circle firm Allen & Overy is in active discussions with West Coast litigation player O’Melveny & Myers, while earlier this year the U.K.’s Berwin Leighton Paisner sealed a tie-up with Bryan Cave.