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Another prominent Washington firm appears to be on the verge of mega-merger. D.C.’s Shaw Pittman and San Francisco-based Pillsbury Winthrop are in advanced discussions about a possible union, according to sources with direct knowledge of the discussions. Neither firm has voted on the merger, and it is unclear when or if that would occur, one source says. But that source says that the 3-month-old talks have been amicable and have moved to the due diligence phase. If approved, the merger would create a 1,021-lawyer firm and could instantly transform Pillsbury � which currently has small offices in D.C. and Northern Virginia � into a significant Washington player, with 408 lawyers in the area. But jumping into the fray is Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, which appears set to pry away much of Shaw Pittman’s 15-attorney New York office for itself, according to a source close to both Morgan, Lewis and Shaw Pittman. Moving to Morgan, Lewis would be Shaw Pittman outsourcing partners Akiba Stern and Edward Hansen, and presumably a number of associates. When telephoned by a reporter on Wednesday, Stern declined to comment even before the reporter could ask a question. The outsourcing practice has been one of Shaw Pittman’s strongest in recent years, and it is unclear what impact � if any � the move by the New York lawyers would have on the Pillsbury negotiations. Diane Zyats, a spokesperson for Shaw Pittman, declines comment, but adds that “serious merger candidates” are “key” to the firm’s strategic plan. Spokespeople for Pillsbury Winthrop and Morgan, Lewis declined to comment. Shaw Pittman � which has been in merger discussions with other firms, most notably Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld � has seen little financial growth in recent years. Firmwide gross revenue declined in 2003, to $189.5 million from $192.5 million the year before. And profits per partner grew just 2.8 percent, to $550,000 � one of the lowest figures among D.C.’s top-grossing firms. For its part, Pillsbury � the product of a 2001 merger between San Francisco’s Pillsbury, Madison & Sutro and New York’s Winthrop Stimson Putnam & Roberts � grossed $432 million in 2004 and reported profits per partner of $775,000, according to Legal Times San Francisco affiliate The Recorder. In an interview Tuesday with The Recorder, legal industry consultant Peter Zeughauser, who noted that he isn’t involved in the talks, said, “It wouldn’t surprise me if [the merger] came to fruition in the near future. “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.”

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