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Washington, D.C., litigation shop Shea & Gardner will merge with Boston-based Goodwin Procter in October, according to the managing partners of both firms. The combination of Goodwin Procter, with 500 lawyers in Boston, New York, New Jersey and D.C., and 70-lawyer Shea & Gardner will create an 85-lawyer D.C. office. The firm will be known as Goodwin Procter. “This combination supports our vision of positioning Goodwin Procter as a national law firm,” says Regina Pisa, the firm’s chairwoman and managing partner. Shea & Gardner managing partner John Aldock says the merger will “enable us to offer our clients a wider range of services with the support of a national platform.” John Liftin, general counsel of Prudential Financial Inc., a client of both firms, says the transaction will make them stronger. “The complementary skill sets of each firm should result in a combination that is better than the sum of the parts,” he says. A few years ago, Pisa says, Goodwin Procter implemented a strategy to grow from a “super-regional law firm” to a national one. She says firm partners decided to grow in New York and D.C., two markets necessary for a national presence. The firm is already one of Boston’s largest, and it has grown to about 100 lawyers in New York. Last October, the firm, which at the time had fewer than 30 lawyers in the District, began checking out the local market. “We spent a fair amount of time evaluating all the firms in Washington, D.C., and made some judgments of who we wanted to talk to,” says Pisa. “Shea & Gardner was at the top of the list.” Goodwin’s need to find a D.C. partner was intensified late last year when 16 lawyers from its financial services group in D.C. departed to form their own firm, Buckley Kolar. The move left the office with just 11 lawyers. But Pisa says that at the time the group broke off, Goodwin was already in talks with Shea & Gardner. Aldock says he was approached “every couple of months” by other firms looking for a merger partner. But only Goodwin’s offer stood out. “It was just too good to pass up,” he says. Indeed, last year Goodwin Procter equity partners brought home an average of $1.025 million, according to The American Lawyer‘s 2004 survey of the nation’s top-grossing law firms. Goodwin, known for its corporate, litigation, financial services, real estate, and intellectual property practices, earned revenue of about $610,000 per lawyer. But in spite of its smaller size, Shea & Gardner holds its own financially. In 2003, profits per partner were $840,000, and revenue per lawyer was $640,000, according to the firm. Aldock says Shea & Gardner, a member of the dying breed of profitable one-city firms, wasn’t willing to be swallowed, but it needed a national platform to compete with bigger D.C. firms. “We weren’t very interested in joining somebody that already had 200 lawyers in Washington,” says Aldock, who will be managing partner of the combined firm’s D.C. office. While Shea & Gardner has had to compete with D.C.’s behemoths, Goodwin may be feeling the squeeze from recent large mergers of Boston firms. In May, Boston-based Hale and Dorr combined with D.C.’s Wilmer Cutler Pickering to form a firm of nearly 1,000 lawyers. And in 2002, Boston’s 500-lawyer Bingham Dana merged with San Francisco-based, 300-lawyer McCutchen, Doyle, Brown & Enersen. Fellow Bostonian Ropes & Gray has also acquired smaller firms in D.C. and New York in recent years. David Wilkins, a professor at Harvard Law School and director of the school’s Program on Lawyers and the Professional Services, says Boston firms, now facing more competition from New York, are being pressured to grow outside of New England. “There’s a domino effect,” he says. “They think they need to get bigger in order to survive.” While this combination with Shea & Gardner won’t propel Goodwin into the ranks of its bigger Boston competitors, Pisa and Aldock say more growth is on the horizon. For now, they say, they will focus on adding lawyers to the D.C. office, but long-term plans call for expansion to the West Coast.

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