After many weeks of speculation, the law firms Shaw Pittman and Pillsbury Winthrop announced a “merger”. Law.com wonders whether this combination will lead to additional mergers by large firms wanting to get bigger and smaller firms (such as those in Washington, DC) wanting to avoid being left at the altar.
The press release notes that combined annual billings will approach $600 million. It additionally quotes Pillsbury chair Mary Cranston about the client angle:
“In fact, we have already discussed the merger with a number of existing clients and the response has been uniformly enthusiastic.â€
I don’t doubt this, but if one of the firms I use ran such a merger scenario by me, I would probably have two questions. Are you going to raise your rates? Are you going to raise your billable hour targets?
A question usually arises in law firm mergers as to whether all lawyers involved with the two firms will remain with the combined firm. Again Pillsbury’s Ms. Cranston addresses that issue:
“We could have potentially — because of client conflicts — attorneys who could not join the merged firm and would find another platform.”
Bruce MacEwen at Adam Smith. Esq. had a more nuanced and informed take on this merger before it was completed.
The press release talks about the merger creating a “new legal brand”. Another way of doing that would be to license this.
I wish the combined firms and their clients good luck.
P.S.: I put the word “merger” in quotation marks because it seems to have a slightly different definition when applied to law firms. Such as #3?
UPDATE: The National Law Journal covers the issue of client conflicts in law firm mergers. Apparently some clients are forced to “transition” to other firms. To avoid this, the merging firms will seek to get “advance waivers” to permit limited conflicts.