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Washington’s Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering and Boston’s Hale and Dorr announced last week that they will merge, a move that will create one of the nation’s largest law firms. The new firm�Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr�will have more than 1,000 lawyers, most clustered in offices along the East Coast. It will be jointly led by Wilmer’s managing partner, William Perlstein, and William Lee, Hale and Dorr’s managing partner. The marriage of the two firms, effective on May 31, will bring together Wilmer Cutler’s strengths in securities, bankruptcy, communications, antitrust and litigation and Hale and Dorr’s primary practice areas, including intellectual property and securities, white collar and IP litigation. “What we will have together is a frankly unparalleled set of skills that should lead clients with the most challenging problems to come to us,” Perlstein said. The new firm, with projected 2004 revenue of more than $700 million, will have about 475 lawyers in Washington and Northern Virginia, 325 in the Boston area, 100 in New York and 135 in Europe. The firms have similar partnership and compensation structures, Lee and Perlstein said. They also had similar profits per partner in the 2002 fiscal year: $810,000 at Hale and Dorr and $759,000 at Wilmer, according to an annual survey of law firm finances published by The American Lawyer, a sister publication of The National Law Journal. The coasts are key Newport Beach, Calif.-based law firm consultant Peter Zeughauser said that for all of the synergy that exists between the firms’ practices, it is imperative that the new firm pay attention to geographic expansion as well-particularly in New York and California. “Their big work is in New York,” Zeughauser said. “If they can put the New York and California piece together, they will be a pre-eminent national firm.” The firm does have long-term growth plans for California�where neither firm has an office�and shorter-term plans for New York, Lee said. “This is not about geography. It’s about practices,” Perlstein says. “Where the lawyers happen to be sitting is irrelevant.” Perlstein and Lee say they don’t expect staff or attorney layoffs or closures of any of the combined firm’s offices. The firms will gradually consolidate their attorneys into the same offices in cities in which they both have attorneys, including Washington. Last year, Wilmer signed a lease for 524,000 square feet on Washington’s Pennsylvania Avenue. Merger discussions between Perlstein and Lee began last August after the firms worked together for a common client, the pharmaceutical company Wellstat Corp., based in Gaithersburg, Md. Negotiations, Perlstein and Lee say, were fairly smooth. There was “literally a handful” of client conflicts to contend with, Perlstein said. The two firms share a number of clients, including GlaxoSmithKline, the Wyeth Corp., Pfizer Inc., and the Intel Corp. Wyeth General Counsel Lawrence Stein says the merger took him by surprise, but that the two firms’ cultures and standards are compatible. “This is not your run-of-the-mill merger,” Stein said. “These are two very independent law firms�there are a lot of firms that I couldn’t see either of them merging with.” Jeffrey Liss, chief operating officer of Piper Rudnick, which has merged twice since 1999, said Hale and Dorr is known for its corporate strength and Wilmer for its regulatory work. “These are two really fine firms, and this on the surface appears to be a strategic and well thought out move,” said Liss. Founded in Washington in 1962 with 19 lawyers, Wilmer now has about 550 lawyers in four East Coast offices, as well as in locations in London, Berlin and Brussels. It is also home to a few of D.C.’s best-known rainmakers, including William McLucas, former Securities and Exchange Commission director of enforcement, and Seth Waxman, former solicitor general. Jamie Gorelick, ex-deputy attorney general and a member of the commission investigating the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, is also a partner.

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