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Swidler Berlin Shereff Friedman is considering a pair of deals that could send the firm’s Washington and New York lawyers to two separate firms, sources familiar with the discussions say. Under the plan, Washington’s Dickstein Shapiro Morin & Oshinsky would pick up Swidler’s Washington lawyers. Swidler’s New York office would merge with Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe. If successful, the addition of the 159 attorneys in Swidler’s Washington home office would make the combined Dickstein-Swidler D.C.’s third-largest office, with more than 400 lawyers. In this year’s Legal Times 150 survey of the largest law offices in the Washington region, Dickstein ranked ninth. Swidler was 24th. ( Legal Times is a sister publication of The National Law Journal.) Orrick had attempted to merge with both offices of Swidler earlier this year, but senior officials from both firms called off talks in July after a significant client conflict was discovered during the due diligence process. Barry Direnfeld, Swidler’s D.C. managing partner; Michael Nannes, Dickstein’s managing partner; and Ralph Baxter Jr., Orrick’s chairman, did not return repeated phone messages seeking comment. And spokespeople for Swidler and Orrick declined to directly answer questions about reports of the talks, citing firm policies against public comment on merger discussions. When reached by telephone, Angelo Arcadipane, the former managing partner of Dickstein Shapiro Morin & Oshinsky, termed a question about the reported talks “presumptuous,” and refused to comment further. But four independent sources with knowledge of the firms and the talks confirm that discussions between Dickstein and Swidler are serious. Two of the four confirm that Orrick is in talks to acquire Swidler’s 61 New York lawyers. Due to the sensitivity of the negotiations, none would agree to be named in print. For Dickstein, the addition of Swidler’s Washington office could strengthen several practice areas, most notably insurance. “[Together] they’d be formidable in that area,” said one attorney with knowledge of both firms. And the two have at least one strong connection in that practice area. Rick Fields, a former director of Swidler and once chairman of that firm’s insurance group, now practices in Dickstein’s 70-lawyer New York office. Big energy practices The two firms also have significant energy practices, and Swidler’s government affairs group is among the strongest in Washington. “Dickstein could desperately use Swidler’s lobbying,” said the attorney with knowledge of both firms. “Swidler has a lobbying practice that most firms can’t touch.” Swidler, according to Legal Times‘ sister publication Influence, brought in $22.4 million in lobbying revenue in 2003, one of the 10 highest totals for a D.C. law firm lobbying practice. The total was nearly $10 million more than the previous year because of a huge boost from asbestos clients. One D.C.-area legal recruiter, however, is less impressed with the merits of the merger. The “insurance practice has flattened out,” he said. “But [the proposed merger] does put the combined firm on the level of Arnold & Porter and Covington and Wilmer” in terms of size in Washington. He points out that along with a large D.C. presence and Dickstein’s existing New York branch, the combined firm might make a tempting merger target for a large suitor with national reach. For Swidler, industry observers say that melding its D.C. office with Dickstein would give it access to the capital necessary to expand its stronger practices. Dickstein had profits of nearly $2 million per partner last year, far and away the highest of any D.C. firm, though much of the profit derives from a mammoth payout from a 1999 contingent fee suit against two vitamin manufacturers.

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