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New York’s Dewey Ballantine and San Francisco’s Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe have taken another step toward completing a merger. According to a statement released Wednesday morning, the management and executive committees at both firms announced to their respective partners that they intend to recommend approving the combination. A full partnership vote at both firms is expected before the end of the year. Last month, The American Lawyer first reported that the two firms were in serious merger discussions. Under terms of the proposed deal, the new firm would be called Dewey Orrick and would keep Orrick’s green “O” logo, which has become ubiquitous in the legal industry. Orrick’s CEO Ralph Baxter Jr. and Dewey’s chairman Morton Pierce would serve as co-chairmen of the new firm while Baxter would gain the additional title of presiding partner. The combined firm would have 1500 lawyers in 21 offices around the world, including 12 outside the U.S., and revenues of more than $1 billion, which would place it in the top ten on the Am Law 100. It would also have 494 lawyers in New York, which would make it the seventh largest office in the city, according to figures collected by The National Law Journal last year. All the terms of the merger have not been settled, nor have the firms completed their due diligence inspections. One key issue: how many of the firm’s partners will have full equity status. Combined, the firms now have about 260 equity partners and 155 non-equity, most of those at Orrick, according to figures published in the May issue of The American Lawyer. A shake-up in status will lead some partners to seek other opportunities and could produce a feeding frenzy by legal recruiters. In a prepared statement, firm leaders emphasized the reach that the new firm would provide their clients. “The Dewey Orrick merger would anticipate the future needs of our clients, and position the combined firm as one of the world’s premier law firms,” said Baxter. “Globally dominant legal providers will be characterized by market-leading practice groups, with a particular strength in M&A, finance and litigation; by having significant operational in all the world’s leading commercial and financial centers; and by attracting and retaining top legal talent due to their superior economic performance. All those characteristics would mark Dewey Orrick.” “This merger will change the face of the legal industry, serving as a model of what law firms need to look like in order to anticipate their clients’ needs in a national and international marketplace,” said Pierce. “Clients will need law firms that are innovative and creative in the way they run their business and in the ways in which they partner with their clients.” Baxter and Pierce sound convinced. Now they must get their partners to agree.
Andrew Longstreth is a reporter for The American Lawyer , a sister ALM publication.

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