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Edwards & Angell is joining forces with Palmer & Dodge to create a law firm with 520 attorneys and nine offices in the United States, with 55 percent of its lawyers operating out of Boston. The two New England-based firms, both known for their strengths in intellectual property and finance, set a Nov. 1 target date to complete their proposed deal. A top partner said Thursday that the new firm — which will be known as Edwards Angell Palmer & Dodge — expects to expand its Florida presence. “Florida is an exciting growth market for us,” said Edwards & Angell managing partner Terrence Finn in a statement. “Our Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach offices, like all of our offices, will now have access to the expanded resources of the combined firm, strengthening the comprehensive range of services that we offer and our competitiveness.” In Florida, the combined firm will continue to operate from Edwards & Angell’s offices in West Palm Beach. The Fort Lauderdale office has eight attorneys; the West Palm Beach office has 19 attorneys, said Gregory E. Young, partner in charge of the Florida offices. Nationally, the combined firm will generate about $260 million in annual revenue. The combination will catapult the new firm into the top 70 U.S. firms based on the number of lawyers, according to a ranking by The National Law Journal, an affiliate of the Daily Business Review. The merger would give the new firm 20-plus practice areas in the United States. The 180-attorney Palmer & Dodge was founded in Boston in 1887. It represents venture capitalists and life sciences and technology companies and is best known for public finance and municipal bond work. The firm also has strong practices in patent prosecution and intellectual property litigation. The 340-attorney Edwards & Angell was founded in Providence, R.I., 110 years ago; it opened a Boston office 23 years ago. The firm’s specialties are banking and finance, private equity, insurance and intellectual property. Charles “Chip” DeWitt of Palmer & Dodge and Finn of Edwards & Angell will serve as co-managing partners and work in Boston. The new firm’s executive committee will be integrated and all partners will be equal. “We believe our increased size and depth will be a platform for growth, giving us a competitive edge that allows us to continue to attract the best lawyers, clients and work,” DeWitt, now Palmer & Dodge’s managing partner, said in a statement. He characterized the combination as a “merger of equals.” “Both firms are coming at this from positions of strength,” Finn said. He added that Edwards & Angell views the deal as part of a “sustained growth strategy which for the last five years has included the integration of high-profile lateral hires, opening of select offices and a successful merger.” Palmer & Dodge’s clients include Helix Technology Corp., which develops vacuum technology for semiconductors. Edwards & Angell’s clients include telephone holding company Atlantic Tele-Network Inc. and real estate management company Starwood Wasserman. Combined, the new firm will be a national leader in the areas of complex litigation, insurance and reinsurance, intellectual property and IP litigation, public and private financing, private equity and venture capital. Young, a real estate specialist, said the firm’s real estate business will grow considerably. Edwards & Angell generated $169 million in 2004, according to The American Lawyer magazine, while Palmer & Dodge’s revenue last year was $89 million. Profit-per-partner was $520,000 at Palmer & Dodge and $615,000 at Edwards & Angell. Aside from its offices in Boston, Providence, West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale, Edwards & Angell has offices in New York, Connecticut, New Jersey and Delaware. Palmer & Dodge has a single lawyer in New York and one in Washington. Edwards & Angell’s growth strategy has included the recent procurement of high-profile lateral partners and a 2000 merger with Dike Bronstein Roberts & Cushman, a leading intellectual property firm. The merger talks between Edwards & Angell and Palmer & Dodge began early this year. Talks continued after DeWitt took over as Palmer & Dodge’s managing partner and were expanded to the two firms’ executive committees, then to department head, then to practice group heads. All staff at both firms were informed of the merger talks in June, Young said. “Managing partners are always open to these opportunities,” Young said in an interview. “You need certain conditions in place to make things work. One is culture. Are these people we want to practice with? The rates have to conform. As the talks went on, conflicts went away.” Managing partners and executive committee members in the combined firm will be elected, as has been Edwards & Angell’s practice, Young said. He expects the firms to merge their separate Boston offices into one headquarters. The merger, he said, will be complete once governance documents have been finalized and all representation conflicts have been erased. Finn said the firms “are committed to doing everything necessary to ensure a smooth and successful integration. Over the next several months we plan to conduct numerous retreats and activities that will allow us all to get to know one another and fully appreciate the great resources that are now available to us as Edwards Angell Palmer & Dodge.”

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