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PHILADELPHIA-After months of speculation, Philadelphia-based Drinker Biddle & Reath and Chicago-based Gardner Carton & Douglas have confirmed that the two firms will merge. The firms began merger discussions in March, according to Drinker Biddle Chairman Alfred W. Putnam Jr., and have held several meetings since then. The Gardner Carton partnership voted three weeks ago to approve the merger, with Drinker Biddle partners following suit. Putnam said the Drinker Biddle partnership voted yes to the merger by “a number substantially in excess” of what the firm’s partnership agreement requires. Gardner Carton Chairman Harold L. Kaplan said his partnership “overwhelmingly” supported the merger as well. The combination will take effect on Jan. 1, 2007, creating a firm with 651 lawyers and 26 other professionals across 12 offices. The firm will maintain the Drinker Biddle name, except for its offices in Illinois and Wisconsin, where it will be known as Drinker Biddle Gardner Carton until 2008. Putnam will maintain his position as chairman, but he said there would be room made on the management committee for Gardner Carton attorneys. Similar structures The committee and partnership structures of the two firms are very similar, Drinker Biddle managing partner Andrew C. Kassner said. According to Putnam, Gardner Carton has a number of limited-equity partners with about 60 equity partners in all. He said no one at Gardner Carton would change his or her status as part of joining Drinker Biddle. “One of the things that has been very compelling is the examples we’ve seen from prior combinations [completed by Drinker Biddle],” Gardner Vice Chairman Edwin A. Getz said in terms of how the acquired firm is given representation in management roles. Recruiter Mark Jungers of the Midwestern offices of Major, Lindsey & Africa said the merger is a bit anticlimactic after hearing rumors of a possible combination for some time. “The fact that it took as long as it did tells me that, just with all of the other largish mergers like this, the people in the middle . . . need to be convinced,” he said. Kassner said Drinker Biddle has been focused on developing the business side of its practice, and Gardner Carton will help with that in the areas of intellectual property, corporate work, real estate and investment management. Gardner Carton is also known for its health care and human resources practices, he said. Both Kassner and Kaplan are bankruptcy lawyers, and Kassner said the firm would now have offices in three of the five biggest markets for bankruptcy filings: New York, Delaware and Chicago. The other two areas, he said, are Texas and California. Kassner said Gardner Carton’s health care practice could also benefit from a larger presence on the East Coast, where there are several pharmaceutical companies. Michael Coleman of Coleman Legal Search said Gardner Carton is a “great name” in the Chicago and national legal markets. He said this acquisition further solidifies Drinker Biddle as a national firm. While some could have argued that the firm’s California offices were too small to make Drinker Biddle a true national firm, Coleman said no one could dispute the firm’s national presence now.

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