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Ending weeks of speculation, Baker & McKenzie on Wednesday announced its acquisition of most of the New York office of Coudert Brothers. Pioneering international law firm Coudert Brothers announced last month it was disbanding its global network of offices and practices. The New York-based firm had been in merger discussions with Chicago-based Baker & McKenzie, a similarly internationally minded firm, but the two failed to reach an agreement on a firmwide combination. The addition of 70 Coudert lawyers, about 25 of whom are partners, in New York meets one of the more pressing needs of Baker & McKenzie, whose presence in the city has been a modest 65 lawyers despite the firm’s status as one of the world’s largest with more than 3,200 lawyers. In a statement, John Conroy, the chairman of Baker & McKenzie’s executive committee, said expanding in New York had been a long-term objective of his firm. “Adding this group of attorneys from Coudert represents a significant step towards achieving our goal in an international context that has been the hallmark of Baker & McKenzie and Coudert Brothers, the two pioneers in the global legal business,” said Conroy. The group joining Baker & McKenzie is led by Clyde Rankin, the present chairman of Coudert Brothers. He said in a statement that the group was “excited at the prospect of leveraging our combined strength in New York and elsewhere on the dynamic business model which Baker & McKenzie has been developing.” Other Coudert partners joining Baker & McKenzie include corporate partner and former chairman Anthony Williams, mergers and acquisitions practice head James Colihan, securities head Jeffrey Cohen, and antitrust head Darrell Prescott. Baker & McKenzie will take on 130,000 square feet of Coudert’s office space in the Grace Building at 1114 Avenue of the Americas, and plans to consolidate its New York operations there. At the time of its breakup announcement, Coudert had more than 400 lawyers in around 20 offices worldwide. At its height a few years ago, the firm had close to 700 lawyers in 28 offices. Founded in 1853, Coudert was long the leading international law firm. The New York-based firm opened a Paris office in 1879 and was the first American law firm to have offices in London, Hong Kong, Beijing and Moscow. But in the last decade or so, the firm’s international pre-eminence had been eroded as many other U.S. and British firms also expanded globally. Lacking strong domestic practices, Coudert’s profits failed to keep pace with other firms. Coudert had profits per partner of $410,000 in 2004, the second-lowest of all the firms included in the AmLaw 100 survey of the American Lawyer magazine, a Law Journal affiliate. In the last several months, the pace of the firm’s decline quickened with the departures of partners and offices in several locations. One of the rivals whose international expansion presaged Coudert’s decline was Baker & McKenzie. Founded in 1949, the firm has attained a scale in its practice Coudert could only dream of. The firm, which had profits per partner of $650,000 last year, currently has 69 offices in 38 countries. Other firms have already acquired large parts of Coudert. Earlier this year, Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe acquired all of Coudert’s London and Moscow practices. More recently, Orrick took on 30 Coudert lawyers in Hong Kong, Shanghai and Beijing. DLA Piper Rudnick Gray Cary and Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton have also recently brought aboard Coudert partners.

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