CMS sign The firm announced its intention to find a US merger partner in 2018. Credit: Krishnan Nair/ALM

CMS is delaying one of its key strategic goals by pausing its search for a U.S. law firm tie-up for at least 12 months, according to a senior partner at the firm. 

Duncan Weston, executive partner at CMS, said in an interview on Friday he expects the search to be delayed for at least a year until “we understand what’s happened as a result of the COVID situation.” Another person at the firm said that the firm would be “unwilling to consider” potential tie-up opportunities during this period. 

After the 2017 merger of CMS Cameron McKenna, Nabarro and Olswang, CMS’ management had stressed a U.S. merger as a key strategic goal. In 2018, the firm’s managing partner Stephen Millar said the firm had an ambition to “attract a worthy U.S. partner to serve a growing international client base”.

Though it is delaying the search, the firm is considering other options for collaborating with U.S.-based lawyers, buttressed by its cloud-based collaborative working platform Lupl.

“U.S. merger activity generally has ceased during the COVID crisis and CMS has focused on building its collaboration with top U.S. law firms in complimentary practice and industry areas,” Weston said. “Any combination in the future with a U.S. firm would be a collective decision of the international CMS organisation.”

The pandemic has led many international firms to reconsider their expansion strategies as revenues take a hit. In July, CMS posted a modest 4.5% rise to its global revenue, to €1.43 billion.

U.S. and U.K. law firm mergers have proven difficult in recent years. Before the pandemic took hold, in September 2019 U.K. firm Allen & Overy and U.S. firm O’Melveny & Myers called an end to their merger talks, citing adverse macro-economic conditions.

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