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Reed Smith and London-based Richards Butler are one major step closer to finalizing their merger plans now that both firms’ partnerships have approved the combination. The legal merger will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2007, but the firms will begin to integrate their operations over the next six months while serving clients together. The votes were the final step in the due diligence process that has been ongoing since the two firms announced their intent to merge in April. Reed Smith Managing Partner Gregory Jordan said that over 98 percent of both partnerships approved the merger. The merger gives Pittsburgh-based Reed Smith a presence in three continents including offices in the Middle East. The combined firm will have over 1,300 attorneys, which they anticipate will move the new entity into the top 20 law firms in the world. “This move is transformative for us,” Jordan said in a statement. “It will make London Reed Smith’s largest office and result in more than 20 percent of the firm’s total business being conducted in Europe.” Reed Smith’s new London office will have 300 lawyers, with 100 lawyers working on corporate and finance transactions, 100 working on commercial disputes, arbitration and shipping, 50 handling real estate, 15 handling the combined employment and business immigration practice, and the remaining attorneys handling other practice areas. 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. Jordan said that having the largest office across the Atlantic would not change the firm’s focus. He said that when the firm opened up a London office over five years ago, it was done in part to service the needs of some of the firm’s oldest Pittsburgh clients who doing work overseas. Richards Butler Managing Partner Roger Parker said that the firm’s ability to grow in the United States will not be hampered or put on hold by this merger. Parker said that the sheer size of the combined firm was a selling point from his firm’s point of view. “Together, there are additional resources available to develop in different markets,” he said. “The size really gives us the ability to do more than one thing at one time.” Reed Smith’s strategy team identified several firms that would be potential merger candidates, and Jordan said in January that after expressing interest to Richards Butler around January, the discussions “really took off.” In recent years Reed Smith has been aggressive about expansion and actively pursuing merger partners. In 2003, Reed Smith merged with Crosby Heafey Roach & May in California. It called off merger talks with a Chicago firm last year, although firm leaders said they were still looking at that city, as well as the southwest, as potential areas for possible mergers. And at the end of 2005, the firm opened its Paris office. The expansion has apparently paid off financially for the firm. In 2005, Reed Smith showed its fifth straight year of improved financials. The firm saw a 21 percent increase in profits per partner in 2005, jumping from $662,000 in 2004 to $800,000 last year. Its revenue for 2005 was $563 million, a 12 percent increase over the $504 million in revenue in 2004. Revenue per lawyer also increased, going up about 10 percent from $553,000 in 2004 to $609,000 in 2005. Gina Passarella is a reporter with The Legal Intelligencer, a Recorder affiliate based in Philadelphia.

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