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Morgan Lewis & Bockius has opted to hire 227 partners from Bingham McCutchen in place of a long-touted merger between the two firms.

In a statement on Friday (14 November), Morgan Lewis said it had “voted to admit” the group, which is expected to move over before the end of the month, and made no mention of a merger between the two firms.

The move raises immediate questions over the future of Boston-based Bingham, including the fate of some 80 partners at the firm not included in the deal, its 14 office leases, other assets and debt. A firm spokesperson has thus far not responded to requests for comment.

For Morgan Lewis, the mass lateral hire catapults it up the law firm rankings by revenue and lawyer headcount. The Philadelphia-founded firm said following the hires, it will have “nearly 2000 lawyers across 28 offices”.

Though details are yet to be finalised, the statement would suggest the bulk of Bingham’s associate and counsel cohorts – 195- and 174-strong respectively – will join the as yet unnamed 227-partner group in the move. Morgan Lewis currently has 1338 lawyers on its website, which would increase to 1934 if Bingham’s entire non-partner lawyer base switched over.

Morgan Lewis has offices in all but three of Bingham’s bases: Hartford, Hong Kong and Santa Monica, though it is unclear whether all or part of these offices will be involved in the switch.

Given Morgan Lewis’ sole reference to the creation of “an enhanced presence along the East and West coasts of the United States”, the fate of the Hong Kong office appears unclear, as does Bingham’s legal services centre in Lexington, Kentucky, which opened in 2013 at a cost of around $22.5m.

The mass exodus of Bingham’s partners to Morgan Lewis comes just over a month after the departure of 25 partners – including the bulk of the firm’s London and Hong Kong offices, and the entire Frankfurt base – to Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld.

Bingham – whose legacy Bingham Dana & Gould operation dates back to the nineteenth century – has had a torrid 18 months, after seeing a 12.6% revenue dip to $762m in 2013, following a decline in US restructuring and securities litigation work, and a general loss of confidence in the firm’s strategic direction among sections of the partnership.

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