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Accelerating an industrywide consolidation trend, law firms in Boston, San Francisco, New York and St. Louis are moving ahead with two separate merger plans to create mega-firms of more than 800 lawyers each. In a May 24 vote, partners at St. Louis-based Bryan Cave overwhelmingly voted in support of a merger with New York’s Robinson Silverman Pearce Aronsohn & Berman, according to sources at both firms. Robinson Silverman partners are set to vote next week, with a similar outcome expected but not absolutely certain, said a source inside the New York firm. Bryan Cave currently counts 650 lawyers worldwide, while single-office Robinson Silverman has 170 lawyers in New York. Separately, Boston’s 500-lawyer Bingham Dana and San Francisco’s 320-lawyer McCutchen, Doyle, Brown & Enersen jointly announced a merger Thursday, creating a combined firm to be known as Bingham McCutchen. The combination is one of the largest transcontinental mergers to date, ranking with the January 2001 merger between San Francisco’s Pillsbury, Madison & Sutro and New York’s Winthrop Stimson Putnam & Roberts. The proposed merger between Bryan Cave and Robinson Silverman would be the latest in a string of mergers between large firms from the Midwest and midsize New York firms. Like many of the large Chicago firms, Bryan Cave is looking to leverage its client list of Midwestern industrial giants into a thriving New York-based transactional practice. According to sources, Bryan Cave and Robinson Silverman have carried on a year-long courtship, during which partners have explored the fit between the two firms. In the most recent American Lawyer AmLaw 200 survey, Robinson Silverman’s profits per partner in 2000 were $520,000 compared with Bryan Cave’s $400,000, but sources said both firms had similar processes for determining partner compensation and were highly compatible economically. The combined firm would keep the Robinson Silverman name in New York for an undetermined transitional period but would later use the Bryan Cave name firmwide. The firm would also continue to operate out of two New York locations, Robinson Silverman’s Sixth Avenue offices and Bryan Cave’s Park Avenue offices, with plans for consolidation to be determined. Bryan Cave chairman Walter L. Metcalfe Jr. would remain chairman of the combined firm, while Robinson Silverman chairman Michael N. Rosen would become managing partner of the New York office. Among Bryan Cave’s largest clients are Anheuser-Busch and Boeing, which acquired St. Louis-based McDonnell Douglas in 1997. Other clients include the Marriott Corp. and Daimler Chrysler. A steady stream of work from such clients has turned Bryan Cave into a particularly far-flung firm, with 18 offices around the world. The combined firm’s New York office would be the firm’s second-largest after St. Louis, which counts 250 lawyers. Among the firm’s other major locations are Los Angeles, Kansas City, Mo., Washington, D.C., and London. The firm’s other overseas offices are located primarily in China and the Middle East. Bryan Cave established its New York office in 1982 and significantly expanded in the 1990s, reaching close to 70 lawyers in 1999. A series of departures since then has reduced the office to about 50 lawyers. Richard Zakin, a law firm consultant with Strategic Legal Resources and the former managing partner of Bryan Cave’s New York office, said Metcalfe had long sought to significantly increase the firm’s New York presence but awaited the right opportunity. “It’s a win-win situation for both firms,” said Zakin. “This gives Bryan Cave a deep and well-respected New York practice and Robinson Silverman instantaneously becomes a national player.” With a corporate practice geared towards private equity, Robinson Silverman also has strengths in litigation, real estate, labor and employment. Former New York Mayor Edward I. Koch is a partner in the firm’s government relations practice group. A source inside Robinson Silverman said the firm’s New York clients such as the Barnes & Noble bookstore chain would benefit from increased scale just as Bryan Cave’s clients would benefit from the New York office. He said Bryan Cave’s London, Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles offices were particularly appealing to Robinson Silverman. Bryan Cave would also bolster the New York office’s capabilities in areas like intellectual property and antitrust. BINGHAM DANA Bingham Dana’s merger with McCutchen Doyle, which will be effective July 1, took shape in the last eight months, said Bingham Dana managing partner Jay S. Zimmerman, who will be chairman of the combined firm. Prior to that time, he said, the firm did not meet McCutchen Doyle’s criteria for a match. McCutchen Doyle had been publicly seeking a merger partner for the past five years. Known primarily for its litigation practice, the San Francisco firm had sought to partner with a firm that was weighted towards transactional practice areas and had a significant New York presence. Donn P. Pickett, McCutchen Doyle’s chairman and the combined firm’s vice chairman, estimates the firm has had serious discussions with at least 20 other firms and casual talks with at least 30 more. According to Zimmerman, Bingham Dana began to match McCutchen’s merger criteria as it aggressively expanded in the last five years, with New York the focus of the firm’s ambitions. Now with 125 lawyers in New York along with its offices in Boston, Washington, D.C., and London, Bingham Dana has a particularly strong bankruptcy group, as well as corporate groups in bank finance and private equity. The firm also has a strong Japanese practice. In addition to its San Francisco headquarters, McCutchen has 60-lawyer offices in Los Angeles and Palo Alto, Calif., as well as a smaller office in Walnut Creek, Calif. Both Bingham Dana and McCutchen have a focus on technology practice, and Zimmerman pointed out the combined firm will bring together practices focused on the two main centers of the technology industry, Silicon Valley and the Route 128 corridor outside of Boston. According to the AmLaw 200, Bingham Dana’s profits per partner were $855,000 in 2000, significantly higher than McCutchen Doyle’s $550,000. Pickett said the way McCutchen’s partnership was structured, with a combination of equity, nonequity and partial-equity partners, meant the gap in profits was not large for comparable partners. Zimmerman said he did not expect the merger to dilute profits, and added that both firms had been on track for record years. Beyond a handful of Bingham Dana lawyers in Los Angeles, the firms’ offices do not overlap, presenting a challenge to firm cohesion. Zimmerman said the firm was planning to relocate a number of litigators from California to the East Coast, particularly the New York office, the growth of which remains the top priority at the firm. Moreover, Pickett pointed out McCutchen partners had looked particularly closely at the cultural fit. He said there was a chemistry with Bingham Dana not evident in other firms that had also been good strategic fits. “To make a merger work, I think you actually have to pay more attention to culture than to economics,” he said.

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