Berwin Leighton Paisner (Victor Dabrowa // Photographer)
Berwin Leighton Paiser, a large law firm in the U.K. that discussed a combination with Greenberg Traurig last year, is now mulling a potential union with Bryan Cave.
The tentative deal, which both firms acknowledged in a joint statement, would create a combined 1,500-lawyer firm with 32 offices in 12 countries around the world. Total combined gross revenue would approach the $1 billion mark. Internet domain name registration records show that the website www.bryancaveblp.com was registered anonymously on Oct. 12.
In their statement, the two firms said that any combination is subject to the resolution of conflict issues and approval by the partnerships at each firm before year’s end.
“Our two firms share a strong commitment to innovation in the interests of our clients,” BLP managing partner Lisa Mayhew said. “We also have an unusually strong cultural fit with a mutual focus on collaboration across our businesses in the interests of deep and lasting client relationships. It is encouraging for the potential firm that BLP and Bryan Cave both have this complementary heritage, but crucially also share the same ambitions for the future.”
BLP boosted its gross revenue by 7 percent last year, to £272 million ($361.3 million), although profits per equity partner fell by nearly 8 percent, to £630,000 ($836,876). Meanwhile, Bryan Cave saw its gross revenue slip slightly in 2016, to $608 million, while profits per equity partner rose 7.5 percent, to $865,000.
“If we combine, we will operate without regard to geographic boundaries,” said Bryan Cave chair Therese Pritchard in the joint statement issued by her firm and BLP. “Our firm would be one of only a handful of global firms operating in a one-firm structure with more than 500 lawyers in both the U.S. and also internationally. We will seamlessly provide counsel to clients across the globe, deliver client service at a new level and use technology and innovation to redefine efficiency in the practice of law.”
Pritchard, who became Bryan Cave’s first female leader in 2014, told The American Lawyer earlier this year that her firm is always interested in opportunities to expand its platform. The 870-lawyer Am Law 100 firm, which has its roots in St. Louis, currently has 19 offices in the U.S. alongside Asian outposts in Hong Kong and Shanghai and a European presence in Frankfurt, Hamburg, London and Paris. (Bryan Cave also has an affiliation agreement with a firm in Milan.)
In late 2015, Bryan Cave was close to acquiring Dickstein Shapiro before a deal collapsed shortly after Christmas, leading what was left of the latter to pursue another deal with Blank Rome. But Bryan Cave has a long track record when it comes to law firm combinations, having absorbed Denver-based Holme Roberts & Owen in 2012, Atlanta-based Powell Goldstein in 2009 and New York’s Robinson Silverman Pearce Aronsohn & Berman in 2002. In 2006, Bryan Cave held unsuccessful merger talks with Squire Patton Boggs predecessor Squire, Sanders & Dempsey.
Bryan Cave is also known for being at the forefront of law firm innovation, recently launching a technology incubator and establishing a program that trains associates to think of ways on how to use technology to change the traditional business model for providing legal services.
Following the end of tie-up talks last year between BLP and Greenberg Traurig, both firms cited a clash in cultures and compensation systems as helping undo the discussions toward creating a 2,500-lawyer global firm. While both sides insisted the decision was mutual, issues did arise with BLP’s management, according to reporting by The American Lawyer.
BLP has been restructuring certain aspects of its operations in recent years, with its corporate practice being re-focused in 2015 to support real estate and litigation clients. The firm itself was created in 2001 through the merger of British firms Berwin Leighton and Paisner & Co, a combination that was the focus of a Harvard Law School case study in 2011.