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BOSTON-Edwards & Angell and Palmer & Dodge rushed to the merger altar five months after the idea was floated. That was the easy part. The firms then spent the next year smoothing out bumps in the new relationship. On the first anniversary of the Nov. 1, 2005, merger, the co-managing partners at Edwards Angell Palmer & Dodge reflected on back-office unease, the inconveniences of a split Boston headquarters and the former Palmer & Dodge lawyers’ adjustment to a more formal, e-mail-based communication system. In the plus column, the firm has grown by 18 lawyers to a 538-lawyer firm with offices in New York; Hartford and Stamford, Conn.; Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, Fla.; Providence, R.I.; Short Hills, N.J.; Wilmington, Del.; and a representative office in London. Palmer & Dodge had about 180 attorneys, while Edwards & Angell totaled about 340. The firm’s recent triumphs include new securities work, intellectual property litigation, and public finance work for the city of New York and Hillsborough County, Fla., which drew on Palmer & Dodge’s historical expertise in public finance and Edwards & Angell’s geographic reach. “Lawyers speculate whether size of the firm matters,” said co-managing partner Terrence Finn. “We’ve come to the conclusion that it does.” ‘Two lost weekends’ The firms took a “leap of faith” without much premerger planning to keep the momentum of the merger going, said co-managing partner Chip DeWitt, who was formerly of the one-office Palmer & Dodge. Delaying the merger until January and operating with a combined conflict list without the opportunity to woo each others’ clients as a larger firm would have been a mistake, said consultant Paula Alvary of Newton, Mass.-based Hoffman Alvary & Co., who advised both firms. Yet the November combination, DeWitt said, led to “two lost weekends” dealing with year-end compensation issues for each group of partners, and months of administrative tangles, including manual recording of year-end numbers from two separate accounting systems. Dividing the head office staff and about 260 lawyers among buildings in two Boston neighborhoods also created tensions. The firm plans to exercise real estate options to move all the lawyers to one building in the first quarter of 2007. Real estate and intellectual property lawyers moved to Edwards & Angell’s space in the financial district, a traditional haven for the city’s largest law firms. Other groups are in Palmer & Dodge’s Back Bay building, which offers easy highway access to technology companies in Boston’s western suburbs and a lively restaurant and shopping scene. “People who had been [in the Back Bay neighborhood] felt like they weren’t in the middle of things,” DeWitt said. DeWitt acknowledged that the firm didn’t move quickly enough to assuage staff fears about change, but a consultant held meetings and calmed the waters. “They didn’t know each other and there was a lot of sort of unhappiness,” DeWitt said. “If I had to look back I’d acknowledge that up-front and get people to talk to each other in a more organized way than we did in the beginning.” Former Palmer & Dodge partners also needed time to adjust to communicating by e-mail and telephone, Finn said. “We learned to have more sensitivity to the smaller things,” Finn said.

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