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FIRM NAME: Pillsbury Winthrop LOCATIONS: San Francisco, New York, Washington, D.C., 13 others SIZE: 860 attorneys CHAIR: Mary B. Cranston VICE CHAIR: John F. Pritchard Pretty much every full-service firm these days would like a New York presence, but Manhattan firms, lucrative and entrenched, have proven to be elusive merger partners. So how do you land a prestigious New York firm? Take a few lessons from Pillsbury Madison & Sutro, which in recent weeks inked a deal with Winthrop, Stimson, Putnam & Roberts. The merger, which firm leaders hope to finalize by year’s end, would bring together 860 lawyers and 16 offices to form Pillsbury Winthrop. Winthrop, with 265 attorneys and offices in London, Tokyo, Singapore, and Hong Kong, had a number of suitors. Here’s how Pillsbury came out on top, as well as advice for other merger seekers, according to lawyers and consultants involved. � Let folks know you’re looking. Winthrop wasn’t on Pillsbury’s radar screen until William J. Flannery, of The WJF Institute in Austin, Tex., suggested that leaders of the two firms meet. Flannery had been training lawyers from both firms on how to form interdisciplinary client teams. “I talked to a lot of firms,” says Pillsbury chair Mary B. Cranston. “And Winthrop — maybe because they’re in the W’s — I hadn’t gotten around to them.” Firm leaders met about three months ago. “After the breakfast, my partners looked at me and said, ‘Where have these guys been?’ After that, it was pretty quick,” she says. � Profits per partner are key. The AmLaw 100, released last month, lists Pillsbury with profits of $505,000 per equity partner and Winthrop with $520,000. “It was important that we be within shouting distance of each other in terms of our financial performance,” says Winthrop chair John F. Pritchard. � Know mergers from acquisitions. From Winthrop’s perspective, it was important that the deal be structured as a true merger, says Lisa R. Smith, of Hildebrandt International, which advised Winthrop. “Both sides are open to new ideas, as opposed to merely adopting one firm’s approach,” she says. “They are in fact, building a new firm.” That’s evident by the combined name and governance structure: Cranston will become chair, and Pritchard will serve as vice chair. Partners of the two firms will be represented proportionally on the combined firm’s managing board. There will be no single headquarters. � There must be a practice fit. Because this is a bicoastal union, there were no major conflicts, Cranston says. Equally important, each firm had a carrot to dangle: Pillsbury’s high-tech and intellectual property practices and Winthrop’s international presence. � Culture counts. Firms really do have differing cultures, which may or may not be compatible. For example, Flannery says, neither firm here was driven by a lot of internal competition. Both recently had undergone strategic planning processes and had defined the kind of expansion they were seeking. And both firms were creating interdisciplinary, client-focused teams. “Instead of merging in name only, what you have here is merging at the gut level, where the money is,” he says. For years, Manhattan firms with a couple of hundred lawyers vowed to remain independent — but expect mergers to pick up steam. “Several years ago, we decided we needed to grow the core areas of our practice,” Pritchard says. “We initially tried to do it incrementally, but about a year ago we decided that that was no way to go. … It was too slow.” Smith agrees: “We see an awful lot of firms, even in the Winthrop range, having more trouble competing … having difficulty attracting the top-end work, the kind of challenging work that they had been doing in the past, which is more and more often going to large firms now.”

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