While neither binding nor exclusive, the letter of intent (LOI) signed by Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman and Stroock & Stroock & Lavan represents a serious step in the direction of forming a single firm, according to firm leaders and consultants.

Recruiters and former employees of Stroock said the agreement might also prove to be the stabilizing force that Stroock, a firm that has struggled to hold onto rainmaking partners in recent years, has sought.