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Washington, D.C.’s Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld expects to become one of the mythical Big Nine firms that could dominate the national legal landscape. So they have gone out and found 155 new friends to help. Managing partner R. Bruce McLean is a few weeks away from sealing a strategic alliance with the big-in-Seattle firm that handles deals for Microsoft dropout/playboy financier Paul Allen. The sweetheart, Foster Pepper & Shefelman, makes an attractive bride, as it also represents discounter Costco Warehouse Inc. and the largest thrift bank in the world, Washington Mutual. But no marriage is in the offing, and each side is free to cuddle up with other firms. Foster Pepper managing partner Jack Cullen says that the two firms work really well together. So what’s stopping a real marriage? It seems a certain Seattle party might not be rich enough.

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