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Now that the partnerships of Reed Smith and Chicago’s Sachnoff & Weaver have approved the proposed merger of the two firms, key leadership positions are beginning to take shape. Reed Smith’s partners began voting electronically on Nov. 16 and concluded the voting Wednesday. Sachnoff & Weaver partners voted on the proposal at a partner meeting Wednesday as well. When the merger goes into effect on March 1, 2007, Sachnoff & Weaver partner Michael A. LoVallo will be the managing partner of the combined firm’s Chicago office. LoVallo has served as president of Sachnoff & Weaver and is a member of the firm’s estate and wealth planning practice. Reed Smith’s executive committee will expand by three seats with the edition of Sachnoff & Weaver Chief Executive Officer Austin L. Hirsch and partners Carolyn H. Rosenberg and Mark A. Brand. Reed Smith’s combination with Sachnoff & Weaver will follow its Jan. 1, 2007 combination with Richards Butler in London. The addition of the two firms will increase Reed Smith’s offices to 21 and will expand the size of the firm’s attorney base to nearly 1,550. With partnership approval taken care of, the firms can focus on the process of integration. Eugene Tillman, Reed Smith’s director of legal personnel, will serve as co-chairman of the Chicago integration committee along with Hirsch. Hirsch served as Sachnoff & Weaver’s managing partner for more than 16 years and now serves as its CEO. Although the integration process didn’t become formalized until the partnerships voted to approve the merger, the Chicago integration committee hasn’t been twiddling its thumbs. Prior to the votes, there was an intensive due diligence process in which the firms learned about each other’s lawyers and practices, Tillman said. That has given them a better idea of how Sachnoff & Weave attorneys might fit into Reed Smith practice areas, he said. Attorneys at Sachnoff & Weaver have already assisted Reed Smith attorneys on certain client matters and vice versa, Hirsch said. It worked out that Reed Smith retreats were scheduled for the few weeks preceding the partnership votes, allowing Sachnoff & Weaver attorneys to attend and begin the meet and greet process. Clients were notified at the time the proposed merger was announced in mid-October, Tillman said. Leadership in Reed Smith’s technology, human resources and finance departments have traveled to Chicago to meet with their counterparts as well, he said. Tillman said that as with previous Reed Smith mergers, the goal is not to make this combination work through a reduction in staff. He said Chicago is a new market for the firm and will pretty much need its own staff functions. He said most people would likely stay in their positions while others may take on slightly different roles. Tillman said he looks at the role of the integration committee as more of a steering committee that identifies tasks that need to be accomplished and makes sure the right people get the job done. It remains to be seen how long the committee will stay in existence after the March 1 close, but Tillman offered a guess of a year to 18 months. The firm is mindful, he said, of the overlap in integration of both Sachnoff & Weaver and Richards Butler. “It certainly is a challenge to integrate one firm,” he said. “It’s a greater challenge to integrate two.” The firm has two distinct integration committees that handle the two mergers, Tillman said. The March 1 close was strategically picked to give time for integration after the Richards Butler deal closes on Jan. 1, he said. A lead-time of two to four months between partnership votes and the official close of the deal is about the amount of time needed to integrate properly, Tillman said. Hirsch said his firm was very comfortable with the integration process because the team includes some of the Reed Smith attorneys who worked on integrating California firm Crosby Heafey Roach & May in 2003. The biggest challenge the firms have run into so far is predicting the winter weather in Chicago. Celebratory events are scheduled at Sachnoff & Weaver today, but it was unclear whether Reed Smith attorneys would be able to make it into town with the snow looming in the Windy City’s forecast. Reed Smith isn’t the only firm looking to move into Chicago. Drinker Biddle & Reath announced nearly three weeks ago that it would merge with Chicago-based Gardner Carton & Douglas. The firm’s partnership voted on the deal in the beginning of November and it is set to close on Jan. 1, 2007. Drinker Biddle managing partner Andrew C. Kassner said his firm had an integration plan in place a few months before the partners voted. “Like any transaction in business, you need to start thinking about integration long before the ink is dry,” he said. The firm has set up a steering committee with several subcommittees to handle issues on administrative matters, financial and business planning, practice group management and intake, and conflict management, Kassner said. He said the committee will probably be in place for at least a year after the deal closes, and the integration plan may require some mid-course changes. “Communication during the integration process is critical,” Kassner said. “Everyone is thirsting for info.” Partners from both firms have been visiting other offices, and Kassner was in New York looking at office space options when he spoke with The Legal Intelligencer. In addition, he said that also moving all of the nearly 100 of the firms’ Washington, D.C., professionals into a new space is a daily process. Kassner said it is important to get as many people as involved and informed as possible, and that, in turn, often leads to more staff and attorneys who are interested in helping with integration. The firm has created an internal Web portal where both Drinker Biddle and Gardner Carton attorneys can see messages and updates. The firm also set up a “Get Your Drinker On” contest that will award monthly prizes for the best photos of staff and attorneys displaying Drinker Biddle paraphernalia at vacation spots across the globe. Checklist on integration Joel Rose of Joel A. Rose & Associates in Cherry Hill, N.J. said integration becomes a lot easier when a firm has done its due diligence prior to signing a merger agreement. The things to discuss pre-signing of the agreement include outlooks on culture, technology, governance structure, performance standards and billing rates, compensation structure, practice areas, client integration, communications and technology integration, administration needs and benefits issues, he said. Some of the most important issues to have mapped out before the merger are how billing rates and practice areas will be integrated, he said. Rose said the most difficult firms to integrate are peer-sized firms of compatible sizes. “In order for any integration to work successfully, it must have partner support,” he said. One way to further ensure a clear understanding of various processes post-merger is to clearly define the roles of the chairman, executive committee and practice leaders prior to signing an agreement, Rose said. That offers an extended benchmark, he said, that could be matched to what occurs post-merger.

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