Foley & Lardner and Gardere Wynne Sewell have become the latest pair of large law firms to discuss the possibility of a union before year’s end.
Two sources familiar with the operations of both firms confirmed the talks, with one individual claiming that Gardere’s partnership had voted to approve the deal. The other source said that Foley & Lardner had previously discussed a combination with the Texas-based firm last year.
Foley & Lardner spokeswoman Jill Chanen confirmed that the 840-lawyer firm and Gardere were evaluating the prospects of a combination, one that would bring together firms that had 2016 gross revenues of $671 million and $151.5 million, respectively.
“We continuously evaluate opportunities that will advance the interests of our clients and the firm,” the firm said in a statement provided to The American Lawyer. “As part of these efforts, we have engaged in discussions with Gardere Wynne Sewell LLP about the mutual benefits for clients that may stem from a combination. As the discussions are still underway, and no final decision has been reached, we do not have any further information to share at this time.”
Brian Dare, chief marketing officer for Gardere, said in a statement that his 212-lawyer firm is constantly evaluating various opportunities in the market.
“A lot of people are interested in firms like Gardere that have a strong reputation in Texas and have been here for a while,” he said in a statement.
Earlier this month, Gardere absorbed a five-lawyer commercial arbitration and litigation boutique in Mexico City called Bufete Hernández Romo. Gardere, which has watched its profits rise amid a downturn in the U.S. energy market, was formed in 1909 in a small town east of Dallas called Wills Point, Texas. The firm adopted its current name in 2000, five years after the merger of legacy firms Gardere & Wynne and Sewell & Riggs.
In late 2015, Foley & Lardner and British firm Eversheds broke off discussions about a potential combination. (Eversheds subsequently found a merger partner in Sutherland Asbill & Brennan.) Earlier this year, Foley & Lardner and New York’s Friedman Kaplan Seiler & Adelman talked about a potential tie-up, according to The American Lawyer.
Foley & Lardner, which in September celebrated its 175th anniversary, is led by CEO Jay Rothman, who was elected to the role in early 2011. The firm’s COO, Blane Prescott, joined the firm in 2014 from Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, which he helped guide through a series of mergers in his previous position at what was then called Hildebrandt Baker Robbins. (Prescott spoke with The American Lawyer in late 2010 about his decision to leave the legal consulting world for law firm management.)
While Foley & Lardner has not done a major merger in some time, the firm does have a history of combinations, having absorbed three Florida firms between 1985 and 1991 in Jacksonville, Orlando and Tampa, while also acquiring Los Angeles-based Weissburg & Aronson in 1996.
The talks between Foley & Lardner and Gardere come as two other large firms—Bryan Cave and the U.K.’s Berwin Leighton Paisner—move toward a potential combination that could be finalized by Jan. 1, 2018. That deal could cap what might be a record year for legal services combinations, according to data analyzed by legal consultancy Altman Weil Inc.