Allen & Overy will hold an open ballot if its merger discussions with O’Melveny & Myers move to a vote, according to several people with knowledge of the situation.
That format would allow the firm’s management to see whether or not individual partners vote in favor of the tie-up, which some people close to the situation believe could pressure partners into voting yes.
One A&O partner, who plans to vote in favor if a vote is held, said the firm’s senior partner, Wim Dejonghe, “feels strongly” about it being an open vote.
A second person with knowledge of the situation said “Wim made an announcement internally saying that a partnership’s decisions should be made openly and be accountable.”
An A&O partner said there have been some internal disagreements about the prospect of an open ballot, but another person at the firm said the majority were in favor of the arrangement.
One person said some junior partners have expressed concern about an open ballot for a decision of this magnitude, arguing that they would prefer the security of an anonymous vote to avoid feeling pressured into a decision.
“No votes are secret at A&O apart from management elections,” one former A&O partner said. “In this case, if management says the merger is a great thing to do, then it’s brave to vote against it.”
No timeline for any decision has been set by either firm, with people at both firms stressing that discussions are ongoing and that a vote is still not guaranteed.
“I don’t think they’ll call a vote until they’re sure it would go through,” one A&O partner said. “We have to have an ambition to do something, but it has to be on the right terms.”
Two sources expect that a decision on whether to hold a vote will be made this summer, but another said there was no timeline in place.
The progression follows months of discussions between both firms’ management teams, with recent issues including remuneration, pension liabilities, working capital requirements and firm governance being thrashed out.
ALM’s Legal Week revealed the two firms were in merger discussions over 12 months ago.
Since then, both firms’ senior management teams have held high-level discussions across their international operations. Meetings have taken place at A&O’s London office, a hotel in Germany and O’Melveny’s Singapore base.
Earlier this year, O’Melveny announced record financial results. Its gross revenue increased by 8.5%, climbing just past the $800 million mark. The firm’s revenue per lawyer hit $1.19 million, while a 12.6% increase in profits per equity partner brought that figure to $2.26 million.
The firm has seen several partner departures in London to rival U.S. firms including Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld and White & Case.