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L.A.’s Riordan & McKinzie, a 60-lawyer corporate boutique long in the market for a merger partner, is being swallowed by Bingham McCutchen, the firms announced Tuesday. The move instantly doubles the size of Bingham’s Southern California footprint and is designed to bolster the firm’s transactional practice in the region. “We can now flex our corporate legal strength from east to west,” said Jay Zimmerman, Bingham’s chairman, in a prepared statement. The move comes a year after the 800-lawyer Bingham McCutchen firm was created by the cross-country merger of Boston’s Bingham Dana and San Francisco’s McCutchen, Doyle, Brown & Enersen. Riordan & McKinzie, founded by former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan, focuses almost exclusively on transactional work, with an emphasis on venture capital. Riordan called the merger an “outstanding move that will help Riordan & McKinzie serve its clients.” Recruiter Larry Watanabe said “Riordan in Los Angeles” is analogous “to a more mature version of Venture Law Group,” the Silicon Valley firm whose business model is based on taking equity in clients. “My only question would be how the economics work” for Bingham in acquiring a large corporate group, the Watanabe Nason & Seltzer recruiter said. “Obviously, while the risks were there, they felt it was worthwhile.” Terms of the deal were still vague at press time. According to the announcement, Bingham McCutchen’s Los Angeles office will double in size, to 120 attorneys. In addition, the firm will acquire an Orange County office. The fate of Riordan’s small Westlake Village outpost is unclear. Growing a corporate practice in Los Angeles was a long-held goal of the former McCutchen Doyle firm. And Bingham McCutchen’s Los Angeles office is primarily built around litigation and environmental work. Tuesday’s merger announcement is also the latest example of Zimmerman’s aggressive growth strategy. Under his stewardship, Bingham Dana grew through a series of mergers and acquisitions of law firms, including Hartford, Conn.’s Hebb & Gitlin in 1999 and New York City’s Richards & O’Neil in 2001. With the Riordan merger, Bingham McCutchen will count more than 850 attorneys. Riordan has tried to combine with another firm in the past. In 2001, Riordan was in merger discussions with Palo Alto, Calif.’s Gray Cary Ware & Freidenrich. According to a former Riordan partner, those discussions were abandoned as the economy soured. “We had been approached by many potential merger partners and held substantive merger talks with several nationally prominent law firms in recent years,” said Richard Welch, Riordan’s chairman. “These discussions led us to one clear conclusion: Bingham McCutchen is far and away the best fit for us and our clients.” Reporter Brenda Sandburg contributed to this report.

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