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Coudert Brothers’ announcement last week that it would dissolve its partnership marked the last chapter in the firm’s 152-year history. “After exploring various options, the partners of Coudert have authorized the firm to enter into combinations of offices and practice groups with other firms,” said a firm statement issued Aug. 18. “Such combinations will be done in an orderly process and announced over the next several weeks.” The official death rattle of what was once considered one of America’s most venerated international firms didn’t come as a surprise. “It’s not a shock but it is a real sad day,” says Philippe Bennett, Coudert’s former intellectual property chair, who left last year to join the New York office of Alston & Bird. Sources familiar with the situation said the announcement indicated that the firm’s recent efforts to merge with Chicago’s Baker & McKenzie had failed, though it remained possible that some individual offices or practice groups might join Baker. The future of the lawyers in Coudert’s Washington, D.C., office is unclear at present. Partners in the D.C. office did not return messages last week. Firmwide, Coudert has seen its profits lag behind other big firms, and its number of lawyers dipped from 630 in 2003, to 550 this spring, to 464 at present. Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe hastened Coudert’s end by picking off its profitable London and Moscow practices this spring, a move which led Coudert to threaten suit against the San Francisco-based firm. One of the firm’s fatal mistakes, former partners say, was expanding into exotic but low-profit international markets even while its profitable domestic practices eroded. The firm also suffered internationally as larger American and British firms moved into markets Coudert had pioneered. “They had the franchise,” former D.C. managing partner Tara Giunta told Legal Times this spring. “And they sat and watched while other firms overtook them.”
Jason McLure can be contacted at [email protected]. Emma Schwartz can be contacted at [email protected]. Anthony Lin is a reporter with the New York Law Journal.

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