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Philadelphia-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. As far as financials are concerned, the merger would not affect Reed Smith’s 2006 performance, firmwide Chairman Gregory B. Jordan said. In a statement issued by Richards Butler, the firm said the combination would come with a forecast of global revenues in the area of $725 million. The new entity will be known as Reed Smith, but certain markets in Europe will carry the name Reed Smith Richards Butler. The announcement comes six months after Reed Smith ended merger discussions with 200-attorney Chicago firm Wildman, Harrold, Allen & Dixon due to client conflicts. Jordan said the firm is still interested in markets like Chicago and Texas, but he added, “this one kind of took over.” He said that it seems the two firms’ practice areas are in harmony and client conflicts don’t look to be a problem. Richards Butler, a top-30 U.K. law firm, has an affiliate with Richards Butler Hong Kong. Jordan said that the 100-lawyer firm is not currently a part of the letter of intent. “We are very intent in maintaining the relationship with that group,” he said. “If we can work things out with Richards Butler Hong Kong, that would put us in a great, great position.” Asian goals met According to Jordan, the Hong Kong firm is well respected in the area, and having a connection there would satisfy the firm’s immediate goals of entering the Asian market. A merger with Richards Butler U.K. 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. Jordan said the merger would give Reed Smith a stronger litigation practice in London to supplement its U.S. litigation group. “The U.K. can sometimes be a challenging market with respect to expansion,” said Frank D’Amore of Attorney Career Catalysts, adding that Reed Smith most likely thought this through. He said that the merger speaks to the further stratification of law firms into categories of regional, national, international and global firms. He noted that the merger is most likely a clear move meant to signal that Reed Smith is looking to be seen as a global firm. Jordan said that Richards Butler brings the firm practices in shipping, international trade, finance and media. The merger will also strengthen both firms’ financial services practices, according to a statement by Reed Smith’s managing partner in England, Tim Foster. He added that Richards Butler is one of the biggest firms in shipping and international trade, and represents clients with significant U.S. operations. Reed Smith’s biggest offices are in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.

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