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Most law firm managers say they are open to chatting with their colleagues about a possible merger, but inking a deal is another matter. Here’s a rundown of some of the California players often said to be in the hunt for a merger partner, and the reasons they may be looking for a mate, according to firm consultants and managers. Cooley Godward A tough tech economy has slowed expansion of this firm. Talks with Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe stalled, but for Cooley to become a truly national player and significantly boost its profitability, it may need to find a partner. Gray Cary Ware & Freidenrich The product of a merger between San Diego’s Gray Cary Ames & Frye and Silicon Valley’s Ware & Freidenrich, Gray Cary saw its tech-boom paydays cut significantly by the economic downturn. To morph from regional player to competitive national player, it may need help from a large regional or national player. Gunderson Dettmer Stough Villeneuve Franklin & Hachigian It started the associate salary wars during the technology boom, but Silicon Valley’s doldrums have put Gunderson on the merger or acquisition watch list. Though the firm has made no noise about pursuing a deal, the acquisition of its fellow Valley boutique the Venture Law Group by Heller Ehrman White & McAuliffe has increased speculation about the firm’s fate. Morrison & Foerster The Bay area’s 1,000-lawyer gorilla seems to want to gobble up a smaller firm with strategic corporate practices. MoFo was in the hunt for several Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison partners when that firm collapsed and was vying for Venture Law Group’s hand as well. Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe Orrick chairman Ralph Baxter Jr. has been open about his desire to see his firm become an international titan. To do that, Orrick may need both domestic mates and partners in Europe and Asia. Sedgwick, Detert, Moran & Arnold The firm’s chairman, Kevin Dunne, said in July that the firm has been chatting with several East Coast and Midwest suitors about a possible merger. Though he said he didn’t “expect a merger anytime soon,” he added that the firm is “not discouraging inquiries.” — The Recorder

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