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Palo Alto, Calif.’s Venture Law Group is conducting parallel merger discussions with as many as three San Francisco Bay Area firms, according to a person close to the situation. In addition to VLG’s previously reported talks with Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, the 64-attorney corporate boutique is also in ongoing merger talks with Heller Ehrman White & McAuliffe and Morrison & Foerster. “At this point, it’s just a sense of, what are the big-picture items, what would a potential fit look like and just getting a feel for the various cultures,” said a law firm source, speaking on condition of anonymity. Donald Keller Jr., VLG’s de facto managing partner, said the firm is not commenting on whether it’s engaged in any discussions or with whom. Likewise, management at the possible suitor-firms are keeping mum. Heller Ehrman Managing Partner Robert Hubbell declined comment, as did Robert Townsend, chair of the business department at MoFo. Ralph Baxter Jr., Orrick’s chairman and chief executive officer, was not available for comment. In the past he has said Orrick doesn’t comment on rumors. The news comes a little more than two months after VLG was first reported to be in merger discussions with Orrick. The two firms have a 4-year-old business relationship. According to the source, VLG’s efforts to find a merger partner have progressed steadily over the past few months, with more than 20 of the firm’s 26 partners visiting Heller Ehrman’s Menlo Park office for dinner last week. Despite its small size, VLG has ties to both Heller and MoFo. Keller, along with partner Mark Windfeld-Hansen, are both former MoFo attorneys. Meanwhile, a number of VLG partners are former Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison attorneys. After Brobeck dissolved earlier this year, Heller Ehrman’s San Diego office picked up 14 Brobeck attorneys, including partners Craig Andrews and Richard Parker. A VLG merger would immediately give any of the three acquirers an established startup practice with strong links to Silicon Valley’s venture capital community, while giving VLG the stability of being part of a larger and more diversified firm. VLG, which specializes in representing startup companies in corporate matters, has struggled during the past few years as the technology industry has sputtered. The firm has enacted a number of cost-cutting measures in the past couple of years, including layoffs and performance-related firings, which have winnowed VLG’s ranks from its peak of more than 100 attorneys during the tech boom.

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