Long-running merger talks between New York law firm Chadbourne & Parke and London outfit Watson, Farley & Williams appear to have stalled.
While negotiations between the two firms, which kicked off in January this year, are still continuing, Legal Week has learned that the issue of a potential merger took a back seat during a recent Watson Farley partners’ conference.According to one Watson Farley partner, frustration is building up over the length of the talks, which are being headed by the firms’ respective managing partners, Watson Farley’s Michael Greville and Charles O’Neill of Chadbourne.”We have become perplexed over time,” the partner said. “I cannot quite work out what is taking the time.”A second partner said that talks had slowed over the summer months because of the difficulty of getting key people to sit down together.But questions are now being raised over whether the U.S. firm is still keen to do the deal.One reason being put forward for the delay is that Chadbourne is considering a range of different “hypotheses,” including what would happen if the dollar were to increase in value. It currently stands at $2.06 to the pound.While both firms have insisted there is no timetable for the talks, it is unusual for negotiations to last more than 12 months, with the long-running and ultimately unsuccessful negotiations between Ashurst and Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson cited by many as a classic example of negotiations that were allowed to drag on for too long.Last year Watson Farley’s turnover increased by 10 percent to �53.5 million ($111.18 million) with partner profits up 7 percent to �419,000 ($870,800). Chadbourne, meanwhile, saw revenue increase by 11 percent to $254 million (�129 million ), with partner profits up by 12 percent to $1.09 million (�549,000).Both firms confirmed negotiations are still taking place, but refused to comment further.Talks between the two firms were revealed by Legal Week sister title the New York Law Journal in January.