Law.com flagged the story that law firms Drinker Biddle and Gardner Carton will merge. Drinker Biddle gets naming rights, except in Big 10 country (Illinois and Wisconsin) for awhile. (One assumes the option of Carton Drinker did not make the second draft of the merger agreement.)
There must be something in the water that makes Philly firms have some form of brotherly love for Windy City firms, since Reed Smith announced in October that it was planning to merge with Sachnoff & Weaver.
Most of the typical rationales are offered in support of the Drinker-Gardner merger: new practice areas, new offices in more states, lack of client conflicts, similar comp systems.
But then this remark attributed to Gardner Vice Chairman Edwin A. Getz caught my eye:
He said Gardner Carton has traditionally been a “stand-alone” firm in which it looked to grow organically. About a year ago, he said, the firm began to look more seriously at other growth options.
The conclusion was that a merger with Drinker Biddle was the best choice, he said.
Merger = Growth?
In my book, no.
A law firm merger can lead to growth, but in the short term it likely leads to some retrenchment due to conflicts or partners who are now tempted to take a headhunter’s call.
And then there is the post-merger reality common in the corporate world, but rarely mentioned in the legal press: restructuring. To his credit, Drinker chairman Alfred Putnam acknowledges the elephant in the boardroom:
As the two firms continue the integration process over the next year and beyond, Putnam said it might become apparent that a reorganization of practice groups makes sense.
Bingo! Finally someone makes mention of something that hints at making operations more efficient. This could (gasp!) lead to more effective delivery of legal services to the new Drinker Biddle’s clients. Hewlett Packard, Comcast, General Electric, GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, JP Morgan, Wal-Mart, Illinois Tool Works and Motorola just might raise a glass to that.
Best of luck to all. Cheers!