By Casey Sullivan
NEW YORK, Dec 17 (Reuters) - The New York law firm
Pillsbury, Winthrop, Shaw, Pittman and the smaller Washington
firm Dickstein Shapiro are in merger discussions, according to
three sources familiar with the matter.
Leaders from the two firms have attended several meetings
with each other over the past month, according to a source with
direct knowledge of the talks. The source called the talks
"serious and ongoing."
Others familiar with the discussion said the merger was far
from a done deal, while one insider said the talks may even have
already collapsed over concerns about the financial structure of
None of the sources were willing to speak publicly about the
merger discussions, citing concerns about compromising business
relationships inside both firms.
Contacted Monday, a Dickstein spokeswoman issued a statement
to Reuters saying the firm planned to remain strategic in its
growth plan and cited a "rock-solid, debt-free financial
platform." She said the firm was "very optimistic" about its
future. She declined to comment on the Pillsbury merger
discussions, saying the firm does not comment on rumors.
A Pillsbury spokesman declined to comment on "rumors or
The talks between Pillsbury, with 615 lawyers, and
Dickstein, with 340 lawyers, come in an era of consolidation in
which mega firms like DLA Piper, Baker & McKenzie and K&L Gates
employ thousands of lawyers worldwide. Many law firm mergers
have recently been triggered by increased pressure to meet
clients' global demands to seize market share from competitors
and establish better-known brands.
One Dickstein partner confirmed on Monday that the firm has
recently been in merger discussions with a handful of law firms,
though he said he didn't have sufficient information to comment
on whether Pillsbury was among them. He said, however, that
Dickstein had considered Pillsbury as a merger partner in the
It could not be determined whether either law firm was
simultaneously pursuing mergers with other firms.
If a deal is consummated, Dickstein, which has at least 200
lawyers in the Washington office, would strengthen Pillsbury's
government contracts, intellectual property and insurance
For Dickstein, a merger would bolster its energy and
corporate practices and give it a presence in markets including
San Diego, Houston, Shanghai, Abu Dhabi, Tokyo and London.
Pillsbury's clients have included General Electric, Chevron
Corporation, Morgan Stanley and AT&T, while Dickstein's have
included Pfizer, DuPont and Kraft Foods, according to the firms'
Some Pillsbury partners have expressed anxiety over the
proposed deal, with at least one fretting about how the merger
could affect his practice, according to a source familiar with
the situation. A group of Dickstein partners expressed optimism
about the deal, according to another source. It is unclear
whether a merger would result in layoffs, demotions or
Dickstein is just the latest of several law firms that
Pillsbury has entertained in merger talks.
Last year, Pillsbury was in discussions with the
international law firm Fulbright & Jaworski, before Fulbright
announced in November that it would merge with Norton Rose, a
partner at Fulbright said. Before that, Pillsbury considered
combining with, among others, Nixon Peabody and Chadbourne &
Parke, according to media reports.
Dickstein last year engaged in merger discussions with
Hunton & Williams before the talks ended because of client
conflicts, according to a Hunton & Williams partner.
Pillsbury grossed $527 million and recorded profits per
partner of $1 million in 2011, while Dickstein grossed $247
million and recorded profits per partner of $915,000 in 2011,
according to the American Lawyer.
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