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Reed Smith has announced its intent to merge with 250-attorney, London-based Richards Butler. The merger — which is subject to due diligence, negotiation of a merger agreement and partnership votes — is expected to be completed in late May, with the launch of the new firm by Jan. 1, 2007. The announcement comes six months after Reed Smith ended merger discussions with 200-attorney Chicago firm Wildman Harrold Allen & Dixon due to client conflicts. This latest merger would bring the combined firm to more than 1,300 attorneys and bring Reed Smith’s London presence to almost 300 attorneys. The combination would also come close to doubling the number of attorneys in the firm’s new Paris office, where it now has 12 lawyers. If the merger goes through, Reed Smith would have 100 lawyers in London working on corporate and finance transactions, 100 working on commercial disputes, arbitration and shipping, 50 handling real estate and 15 handling the combined employment and business immigration practice. Not only will the merger bulk up the firm’s presence in London but it will expand Reed Smith into areas like Piraeus, Greece, and Abu Dhabi. The new entity will be known as Reed Smith, but certain markets in Europe will carry the name Reed Smith Richards Butler. Reed Smith firmwide Chairman Gregory B. Jordan said in a statement that Richards Butler brings the firm practices in shipping, international trade, commodities and media. The merger will also strengthen both firms’ life sciences practices. The new firm will be led by Jordan as firmwide managing partner, with Roger Parker of Richards Butler joining Reed Smith’s senior management team and taking on the role of European managing partner for the merged firm. Tim Foster will continue in his now-expanded role as U.K. managing partner. Both Parker and Paul Johnston, chairman of Richards Butler, will also join Reed Smith partner Ian B. Fagelson as European representatives on an expanded executive committee. This is not the first London merger for Reed Smith in recent years. The firm merged with Warner Cranston in 2001.

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