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After three months of merger talks, Pillsbury Winthrop and Washington, D.C.-based Shaw Pittman have reached the due diligence phase, according to a source close to the discussions. Pillsbury spokeswoman Crystal Rockwood said she could neither confirm nor deny the report, adding that the firm has talked with numerous possible merger partners but had nothing to announce. “We’ve been open that we’ve been exploring and having talks [with firms],” Rockwood said. Pillsbury’s chairwoman, Mary Cranston, was traveling Tuesday, and David Snyder, the firm’s executive vice chairman, was in meetings in Washington, D.C. Firmwide Managing Partner Marina Park referred calls to Rockwood. A spokeswoman for Shaw Pittman said that firm is also “open to assessing merger opportunities” but declined to comment on any negotiations with Pillsbury. A Pillsbury-Shaw merger would create a 1,050-lawyer firm with a big footprint in Washington, D.C., and northern Virginia, home to most of Shaw Pittman’s 350 lawyers. Pillsbury has about 45 lawyers in northern Virginia and about 30 in Washington, D.C. Shaw Pittman has little presence, though, in the two markets where Pillsbury lawyers are most heavily concentrated — the Bay Area and New York. Shaw has 15 lawyers in New York and seven in East Palo Alto. Shaw also has 10 lawyers in London and has an office in Taipei that’s used by two of its East Palo Alto lawyers. Pillsbury Winthrop’s 700 lawyers are located in 16 offices worldwide, including overseas offices in London, Tokyo and Sydney. Legal industry consultant Peter Zeughauser, who said he isn’t involved in the talks, said there’s long been speculation about the discussions. “It wouldn’t surprise me if they came to fruition in the near future,” he said. “A lot of firms have expressed an interest in Shaw Pittman,” Zeughauser added, “because they are an attractive Washington firm with the best outsourcing practice in the world. And they have a strong banking practice and a good litigation practice.” Shaw Pittman previously talked with Washington-based Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, but those talks fell apart in fall 2003.

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