When lawyers from New York’s Howard, Smith & Levin flew to Washington in July to meet with Covington & Burling’s management committee to discuss the possibility of a merger, the differences between the two firms were obvious.Upon arriving at Covington’s office, name partners Philip Howard and Scott Smith first were led to a windowless conference room decorated with tributes to deceased Covington partner H. Thomas Austern�who has been dead nearly as many years as Howard, Smith has existed.

When Covington chairman Jonathan Blake walked into the room, Howard immediately insisted that if the two firms merged he wanted control over the New York decor, say two partners who were present.

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