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Sometimes firms look like they’re about to pull off a deal, but at the last minute they pull back. The following are five examples of firms that tried to merge and the consequences when the deals went south. Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison/Morgan, Lewis & Bockius Deal died: January 2003 What happened: Burdened with a heavy debt and a flood of partner defections, Brobeck pinned hopes for its survival on a merger with Philadelphia’s Morgan, Lewis. The two firms had worked out the substantial terms of the deal on Jan. 28, but Morgan, Lewis pulled out of the talks the following day. Morgan said it failed to get a critical mass of Brobeck’s top revenue generators on board, most notably Austin litigation honcho Steven Zager. The merger’s failure meant disaster for Brobeck, which announced Jan. 30 it was dissolving. Cooley Godward/Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe Deal died: July 2003 What happened: The tech boom’s fizzle forced Cooley to seriously consider a pact with another firm. Orrick, which has ambitions to be a global powerhouse, saw Cooley as a possible path to glory in the Silicon Valley. But the deal fell apart, reportedly because Cooley partners weren’t going to receive enough of a management role at a combined firm. Gray Cary Ware & Freidenrich/Riordan & McKinzie Deal died: Spring 2001 What happened: Though a technology player, Gray Cary never quite hit the heights of some of its competitors during the Internet boom. It hoped a match with L.A.-based corporate boutique Riordan might give it an edge. But Riordan’s numbers didn’t measure up, sources close to the talks say, and it didn’t have a plan for significant growth. Riordan has since merged with Bingham McCutchen. Landels Ripley & Diamond/Washburn Briscoe & McCarthy Deal died: June 2000 What happened: Landels was one of a slew of midsized San Francisco Bay area firms that lost partners and cachet during the boom years. A match with Washburn might have given it the critical mass it needed to survive. But Washburn — which has since merged with Stoel Rives — seemed skittish about Landels’ problems and was reportedly the party that broke off talks. That proved fatal for Landels, which announced it was closing a few weeks after talks with Washburn broke down. Townsend and Townsend and Crew/Lyon & Lyon Deal died: July 2002 What happened: The pair of midsized players were talking about joining forces to become a five-office, 240-lawyer intellectual property juggernaut. But Lyon’s lease obligations proved a big stumbling block for the deal. After the deal fell apart, Lyon — which had been losing partners and big-ticket litigation work — closed. — The Recorder

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