(Photos: ALM)

After years of searching for a way to grow, Washington law firm Dickstein Shapiro appears to have found a partner.

The Dickstein Shapiro partnership approved a merger yesterday with Bryan Cave, according to a former Dickstein partner and another Washington partner familiar with Dickstein’s merger vote.

But it’s not a final and announced deal yet: Bryan Cave’s partners are voting today, one of the sources said. Dickstein Shapiro chairman James Kelly, Bryan Cave chairwoman Therese Pritchard and spokespeople at both firms didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment Tuesday.

The 150-lawyer Dickstein Shapiro has flirted with a Big Law merger for years and this year became more desperate, talking to as many as three firms, as its revenue and lawyer head count numbers continued to drag. Yesterday, Bloomberg BNA reported that the Washington firm had self-imposed a deadline of today to complete a deal.

Kelly has served as Dickstein Shapiro’s chairman for two years.

Pritchard, a Washington white-collar litigator, became the firm’s first female leader last year. Bryan Cave, which has its roots in St. Louis, had almost 1,000 lawyers firmwide last year, including 52 lawyers in Washington.

While Bryan Cave is the larger firm by head count, law firms often attempt to merge or acquire firms that reach similar productivity and profitability.

Bryan Cave’s revenue per lawyer averaged $650,000 last year, while Dickstein Shapiro’s lawyers hit $960,000. Bryan Cave earned profits per partner of $815,000 in 2014, while Dickstein Shapiro’s hit $1.01 million.

Still, the disparity between two firms’ finances hasn’t stopped Bryan Cave from merging in the past. In 2002, the firm merged with New York-based Robinson Silverman Pearce Aronsohn & Berman. In 2009, it merged with Atlanta-based Powell Goldstein. And in 2012, the firm expanded into Colorado when it picked up Holme Roberts & Owen.

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