Am Law 100 firms McKenna Long & Aldridge and Dentons confirmed to The Am Law Daily late Monday that they are discussing a potential tie-up that would create a firm with more than 3,100 lawyers around the world.
A source at one of the firms told The Am Law Daily on the condition of anonymity that leaders on both sides of the talks are aiming to complete the deal by January 1, 2014.
In response to requests for comment on the status of their negotiations, representatives for both Dentons and McKenna Long issued prepared statements to The Am Law Daily.
“Since creating Dentons earlier this year, we have been very clear in our determination to always deepen our capabilities to serve clients in the U.S. and around the world,” Dentons said in its statement, citing the completion of the three-way merger earlier this year between SNR Denton, Canadian firm Fraser Miler Casgrain, and European firm Salans. “This has included discussions with firms and lawyers for whom we have great respect and share common goals. McKenna Long & Aldridge is one such firm, having built in the U.S., Europe, and Asia a very admirable team of lawyers and professionals with whom many of our people have worked for years.”
The Dentons statement specifically praised McKenna Long’s government contracts practice, insurance industry work, and “enhanced California team” through its 2011 merger with Luce, Forward, Hamilton & Scripps. (The Am Law Daily reported last year that Luce Forward’s financial performance in 2011 would have resulted in it dropping off the annual Am Law 200 rankings.)
“While we continue to have discussions between our two firms and with our partners about the future, we do not have a relationship to announce,” the Dentons statement concluded.
For its part, McKenna Long said that it continues to explore “strategic opportunities that enhance the value of our practices and services, while expanding our geographic reach.” In line with that strategy, McKenna Long said it has “ongoing discussions” with various firms and groups of lawyers.
“Dentons, with 75 locations in more than 50 countries and a commitment to delivering creative, dynamic business and legal solutions, is one such firm,” McKenna Long said in its statement. “While we continue to have discussions about the future, we do not have a relationship to announce.”
McKenna Long had its annual partnership retreat in Los Angeles this past Friday and Saturday. The firm, a product of a 2002 merger between Atlanta-based Long Aldridge & Norman and Washington, D.C.–based McKenna & Cuneo, is known for its strong political connections.
McKenna Long saw its gross revenue jump 23.4 percent in 2012 to $345 million, while its profits per partner dipped 3.6 percent to $930,000, according to The American Lawyer‘s annual Am Law 100 reporting. The firm became the latest Am Law 100 shop to open an office in Seoul earlier this year and recently announced plans for another outpost in Shanghai, according to sibling publication The Asian Lawyer.
An anonymous McKenna Long partner told sibling publication the Daily Report that the firm’s merger talks with Dentons began four to five months ago and became serious within the past month and a half. A supermajority of two-thirds of the partners in both firms must approve the deal, which the McKenna Long partner believes will be approved.
Dentons, which had been known as SNR Denton following the 2010 merger between Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal and British firm Denton Wilde Sapte, saw its profits per partner climb 12.1 percent in 2012 to $785,000, while gross revenue remained largely flat at $710.5 million. (The financial numbers gleaned for this year’s Am Law 100 rankings are for SNR Denton only, as the firm’s three-way merger with Salans and FMC did not go live until after our reporting deadline.)
Dentons announced this month the opening of an office in Houston, as well as a second office in Kazakhstan in the Central Asian country’s new capital of Astana. The firm, whose roots are in Chicago and London, is structured as a Swiss verein—an increasingly popular structure for clinching mega-mergers between international firms.
Additional reporting by Meredith Hobbs in Atlanta and Scott Graham in San Francisco.