Tag: legal mergers

Allen & Overy and Shearman & Sterling announce merger

In what the firms describe as ‘the first fully integrated global elite law firm’ Allen & Overy and Shearman & Sterling have announced a planned merger to create a ‘unique global law firm’ named Allen Overy Shearman Sterling – A&O Shearman for short.

In a statement, the firms said: ‘This merger will combine two of the world’s most prestigious law firms, leaders in their respective markets, to create an integrated global elite firm.

‘Together A&O Shearman will have  3,900 lawyers and 800 Partners across 49 offices. Allen & Overy and Shearman & Sterling have 250 years of combined experience and some of the greatest legal talent in the world. A&O Shearman will be the only global firm with US law, English law, and local law capabilities in equal measure. This merger is driven by clients’ needs for a seamless global offering of the highest quality and depth to support them in navigating an increasingly complex legal, regulatory, and geopolitical environment.

‘Allen & Overy and Shearman & Sterling are complementary with distinct market leadership, and between them they have huge strength in the US, UK, and markets all across the globe. This merger will transform their offering to clients: Shearman & Sterling will gain access to a dramatically expanded ‘rest of the world’ offering across practice areas, and Allen & Overy will benefit from increased board-level recognition and expanded access to a corporate client base in the US. The combined firm will be perfectly positioned to capitalise on global macro trends including energy transition, technology, and private capital.’

Wim Dejonghe, senior partner at Allen & Overy, said: ‘This combination of two great firms is such an exciting step for us. Both firms have a history of excellence, and together we think A&O Shearman will be a firm unlike any other in the world. We have listened to our clients and their requests for the highest quality advice to help navigate the demands they face, and to do so in an integrated and globally consistent way. We, A&O Shearman, will do this by accelerating our ability to bring the best of both firms, regardless of geography.

‘Shearman & Sterling is an incredible group of legal minds; a firm built on integrity and excellence, founded like us in a premier global financial capital and with an extraordinary group of longstanding clients. What excites me about this merger is the complementary cultures of our two firms. We have striking similarities across the board, and I believe we are going to be wonderful partners to one another on this journey.’

Adam Hakki, senior partner at Shearman & Sterling, said: ‘Client need for global elite firms has never been greater. They are calling for integrated global legal solutions and advice: merging with Allen & Overy will dramatically accelerate our ability to meet their needs in an increasingly complex environment. Allen & Overy is an outstanding firm whose work we have long admired and thought of as a kindred spirit. We have both always placed great emphasis on attracting and retaining top talent, were early to globalise, and are relentlessly focused on quality, excellence, and collaboration.

‘This is truly a game-changing moment for both firms that will create an unparalleled offering for our clients. It is also a fantastic opportunity for our people to be part of a transformative transaction and an institution of such significance, and we look forward to recruiting even more stellar talent in the coming years.’

Lazard is serving as financial adviser and Simpson Thacher & Bartlett is serving as legal counsel to A&O,  while Davis Polk & Wardwell is advising Shearman.

The proposed merger is subject to customary closing conditions, including a vote of the partners of each of the respective firms.

More detail can be found on www.announcingaoss.com, a site set up by the firms.


This article first appeared on Legal Business

End of the road for Womble Bond Dickinson merger talks with BDB Pitmans

Merger talks between Womble Bond Dickinson (WBD) and BDB Pitmans have been called off, the firms announced on Wednesday (1 February) in a joint statement.

Talks of a combination first became public in October 2022, when a story on RollOnFriday prompted WBD and BDB Pitmans to confirm that they were in discussions around a potential merger, albeit early stage.

In the new statement, the firms said: ‘Womble Bond Dickinson and BDB Pitmans announce today that they have decided not to proceed further with their proposed merger. After extensive discussions on the combined proposition, both firms have decided that the best path forward is to remain independent of each other. Excellent relationships have been established and the firms will continue to work closely together in the future.’

No details were given as to why the talks fell over.

As Legal 500 data from late last year revealed, the two firms complemented each other in some notable ways. A combination offered Pitmans access to the US market, while WBD would have expanded its offering in the UK. In particular, WBD has little presence in the southeast and east of the country, while Pitmans is active in Southampton, Reading, and, since acquiring King & Wood Mallesons (KWM)’s office there in 2017, in Cambridge. The two firms also share strengths in real estate, particularly planning, and in private client work.

But, as with any proposed merger, there were always going to be disparities. First, while WBD has offices in the UK and the US, Pitmans has no presence outside the UK. Second, and more significant, there is a gulf between the two firms in terms of both headcount and turnover. WBD employs 888 lawyers, including 218 equity partners and 171 non-equity partners, with a total revenue in 2021-22 of £379m. Pitmans, by contrast, posted revenues of £53.3m, and is home to 235 lawyers, with 50 equity partners and 20 non-equity partners. Moreover, Pitmans’ revenues slumped 3% in the 2021-22 financial year, while WBD’s increased by 2%.

All this means that the proposed merger made sense: a combination firm would have had a top line of over £430m, and over £160m in the UK alone. But it also highlights that any eventual union would not have been one of equals.

A merger is, of course, a major upheaval for both firms involved. Even early-stage talks can be all it takes to upset the applecart and send partners searching for pastures new. A case in point is the ongoing exodus from Shearman & Sterling amid rumours of an upcoming tie-up with Hogan Lovells. Neither WBD nor Pitmans is a stranger to this process. WBD was established in 2017 when US firm Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice joined with UK-based Bond Dickinson, and Pitmans in its current form is the product of the 2018 union of Bircham Dyson Bell and Pitmans. But it may be that, especially in the context of reduced dealmaking on both sides of the Atlantic, both firms opted for the stability of the known over the risks of the unknown.


This story first appeared on Legal Business

‘A close-knit group’: Milbank acquires Dickson Minto’s seven-partner London office

One of 2022’s hottest merger rumours came to fruition on 13 December, as Milbank confirmed it was acquiring the London office of Anglo-Scottish firm Dickson Minto.

Legal Business first reported murmurings of a merger in the summer, when concerns were raised about matching Dickson Minto’s private equity specialism with Milbank’s bank-side lender practice. At the time, Dickson Minto had also being linked with Fried Frank, although sources claiming familiarity with the deal said those talks had collapsed.

In any case it will not be a wholesale merger, as Dickson Minto’s Edinburgh office will remain independent, with the London team joining Milbank early next year.

Dickson Minto’s London team comprises seven partners, 20 associates and ten business services professionals. Concerns over practice synergies aside, the buyout will add considerable depth to Milbank’s City outpost, which currently boasts 33 partners according to its website.

Milbank’s global head of corporate, Norbert Rieger, said: ‘The addition of this team will significantly add to our ability to act for clients around the globe on private equity related transactions. It is a logical next step after our expansion in the PE space in the US, Germany and Asia.’

Alastair Dickson, co-founder of Dickson Minto, paid tribute to the outgoing practice: ‘I am very pleased that the London private equity practice of Dickson Minto will join Milbank – the partners, lawyers and other staff have been a close-knit group for a long time and it’s extremely satisfying to see their desire to stick together and continue to grow as a group.

‘The move will benefit our longstanding clients who will continue to receive the same high level of service from the same people but now combined with Milbank’s M&A and private equity practice in other jurisdictions as well as with the added advantage of its global expertise in a whole host of adjacent practice areas.’

Dickson added he would be working with Milbank to achieve a ‘seamless transition’, and also confirmed that Dickson Minto would retain a ‘close working relationship’ with the departing team.

The acquisition compounds not only the continually rising prominence of US firms in London, but also the primacy of US firms when it comes to transatlantic tie-ups. For more on this subject, read our history of transatlantic mergers, State of the Union.


This article first appeared on Legal Business

Womble Bond Dickinson and BDB Pitmans table merger

Womble Bond Dickinson (WBD) and BDB Pitmans are continuing to pursue a strategy of development through consolidation, having confirmed they are in talks over a potential merger.

After RollOnFriday broke the news of the merger talks on 21 October, the firms said in a joint statement: ‘Leading transatlantic law firm Womble Bond Dickinson and leading UK firm BDB Pitmans confirm that they are in early discussions around a potential merger. Both firms regularly review opportunities to advance the best interests of their clients and their respective firms. Womble Bond Dickinson and BDB Pitmans are focused on where they see the greatest opportunities for a merged business, including those offered by complementary practice areas and office locations.

‘As discussions are ongoing, both firms have no further information to share at this time.’

Staff at both firms are well acquainted with the merger process, given their respective strategies in recent years. WBD in its current form was established in 2017, when national firm Bond Dickinson (itself the result of the 2013 union of Dickinson Dees and Bond Pearce) joined up with its US strategic ally Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice. A year later, partners of Bircham Dyson Bell and Pitmans voted for a £50m merger and move to an alternative business structure, establishing BDB Pitmans in its current form.

Any deal that is struck would not represent a merger of equals, given the disparity in size between the two firms. With offices both sides of the Atlantic, WBD’s latest revenue figure reached £379m after a 2% increase, while UK-only Pitmans’ came in at £53.3m following a 3% fall. The benefit to WBD is likely to come from the boost a tie-up would have on its UK business, which this year generated £113.8m. For Pitmans, a merger would grant access to a network of US offices previously unavailable to the national firm.


This article first appeared on Legal Business.

‘Buffeted from both sides’: City partners react as Clyde & Co and BLM finalise merger

With partners from Clyde & Co and BLM recently voting through their £700m merger, observers have offered conflicting views on what the tie-up means for the market.

Legal Business broke the news on 18 March that a partnership vote was imminent, and Clyde confirmed on 28 March that the vote had passed, with the combination to go live in July 2022.

In terms of the key stats, the merged firm, which will still be known as Clyde & Co, will comfortably break £700m in combined revenues, have an overall headcount of 5,000, and boast offices in more than 60 cities worldwide. As for fee-earners, post-merger, the firm will have around 2,600 lawyers and close to 500 equity partners.

A statement made it clear that the tie-up is an insurance play, which is no surprise. Clyde & Co has historically been strong in advisory and contentious insurance work, and BLM has a market-leading niche casualty insurance practice. The statement read: ‘The majority of [BLM’s] lawyers will join [Clyde & Co’s] casualty insurance practice, with other sizable groups joining the professional liability, healthcare and business advisory teams.’

James Cooper, partner and chair of the firm’s global insurance practice group, said: ‘We have long sought to increase the scale of our UK casualty insurance practice though a merger so we can provide the full scope of services, technology, data analytics and innovation that clients in this dynamic part of the market require. Once we started speaking to BLM, we quickly realised that we shared the same approach to client service, had a complementary client roster and similar ambitions in this space.

‘This combination will also boost our regional UK presence and strengthen our healthcare and professional liability offerings too.’ On the office front, the tie-up adds new outposts in Birmingham, Liverpool and Southampton to Clyde & Co’s UK coverage.

The move did not shock insurance partners at rival firms, with the tie-up having featured in market chatter for close to a year. Generally, the merger has been well-received, and viewed as symptomatic of a consolidating insurance market that has refined legal services to a binary between high-end advisory work and high-volume claims work. Typically, Clyde has embodied the former while BLM’s casualty practice fits into the latter.

A recent example, in January 2021 Kennedys opened in Leeds via the takeover of Langleys’ insurance team. The move gave Kennedys coverage in high-volume aspects of insurance, such as motor liability matters and a practice that provides pre-litigated claims handling services to insurers and self-retained corporations.

Richard Leedham, a litigation partner at Mishcon de Reya with extensive experience in the insurance market, told Legal Business: ‘We see consolidation on the defence side all the time, this is just the latest iteration of what firms such as Clyde and Kennedys have been doing. The merger doesn’t surprise me at all – it is likely driven by rates, economies of scale and keeping prices down for their insurer clients.’

Zulon Begum, a partnership law partner and specialist in law firm mergers at CM Murray, added: ‘Coming out of Covid, we are getting lots of enquiries from firms looking to merge or seek external investment. I predict there is going to be lots of activity this year in terms of mergers and IPOs.

‘It’s always the mid-market that you fear for, being buffeted from both sides by the big firms and boutiques. Then you have the likes of the Big Four accountancy firms, which can leverage their multidisciplinary experience and take work from the mid-market – they’re not going to compete with the likes of Slaughter and May and Linklaters, they’re going after the mid-market firms that don’t have the same brand power.’

However, a litigation partner at a leading insurance firm suggested the consolidation trend is phasing out: ‘I don’t sense there is a huge client push for further consolidation. Procurement has a heavy influence of course, but their sole objective is not necessarily to reduce panel sizes. They still need access to the right legal expertise and too few panel firms leaves them with conflict issues and, in the end, having to appoint more firms off panel.’

The merger is Clyde & Co’s biggest in terms of revenue and headcount since it merged with Barlow Lyde & Gilbert in 2011, which was the largest-ever merger of two UK law firms at the time. Since then, Clyde’s recent history has been peppered with tie-ups. In October 2015 it merged with Scottish residential property specialist Simpson & Marwick, adding 45 partners in the process. The following year, a combination was agreed in Sydney with Lee & Lyons, adding five partners and over 25 lawyers. In 2018, 15 partners and 65 other lawyers and staff were brought in via a merger with California firm Sedgwick, and in July last year, Clyde combined with Vancouver-based SHK Law Corporation, which brought six partners and 18 lawyers in total.


This article first appeared on Legal Business

Clyde & Co and BLM to merge with partner vote imminent

Clyde & Co and BLM are at an advanced stage of merger discussions, with both sets of partnerships due to vote on a tie-up before the end of March.

Legal Business understands that there is significant confidence that the deal will be green-lit.

According to the latest available LB100 data, the merger would create a £736m turnover firm with a combined headcount of over 2,500 lawyers and in excess of 450 equity partners.

It is understood that the merged entity will be known simply as ‘Clyde & Co’, a reflection of the respective sizes of the two firms. Clydes constitutes £640m of the combined revenue and 1,966 lawyers on its own. There are still details to be ironed out, particularly in relation to a combined leadership structure and what kind of roles BLM’s current managing and senior partners, Vivienne Williams and Matthew Harrington respectively, will be offered.

The combination has been in the offing since late 2019, when Clydes approached BLM and mooted a tie-up. It is a naturally attractive proposition for BLM, as one of many firms feeling the consolidation squeeze in the lower mid-market. In 2017, the firm slashed a considerable number of support staff as part of a wider restructuring effort.

Merger talks stalled as a result of the pandemic, before RollOnFriday broke the news in October 2021 that the two firms were in preliminary discussions.

There are obvious synergies between the two firms, with crossovers in areas such as insurance and professional indemnity. However, BLM will also bring Clydes access to established niche practices in casualty insurance and healthcare. Reflecting that strength, BLM has historically featured on NHS legal advice panels.

Neither firm is a stranger to mergers: In 2011 Clyde & Co combined with Barlow Lyde & Gilbert in a major deal, while BLM was born out of a merger between Berrymans and Lace Mawer. Prior to the Barlow tie-up, Clyde had scant regional UK coverage, but a BLM merger would extend its reach to new outposts in Birmingham, Liverpool and Southampton.

A Clydes spokesperson said: ‘We can confirm that Clyde & Co is in discussions about a merger with BLM. As the world’s leading insurance law firm, we are always looking to grow for the benefit of our clients. We have long sought to significantly increase the scale of our casualty insurance practice in the UK so that we can provide the full scope of services, technology, data analytics and innovation that clients in this dynamic part of the insurance market require.

‘We consider a merger such as this the best way to realise these ambitions. BLM is a firm we have long admired and we believe a merger can be formed on the basis of our complementary client rosters and our shared focus on quality.

‘As this merger is not yet finalised it would be inappropriate to comment further at this stage.’

A BLM spokesperson added: ‘Following detailed discussions and a period of due diligence, BLM and Clyde & Co partners will vote on a proposed merger of the two organisations. The Executive Board set strategic objectives around how best to grow the firm and secure our status as a market leading, innovative and full-service law firm across the UK, Ireland and internationally. We believe that a potential combination with Clyde & Co would provide us with the growth needed to develop our business.

‘The result of the vote will depend on whether, in the respective partner group’s view, combining the firms is in the best interests of our colleagues, clients and the wider businesses.

‘The strategic and commercial compatibility of the two firms is undeniable. We are both dominant in risk and insurance and our respective businesses complement each other. Whilst Clyde & Co is a global business, we both have an extremely strong presence in the insurance sector in the UK and Ireland. Clyde & Co also boasts a strong offering in business and advisory services.

‘More details will be provided as soon as the vote has taken place.’



This story first appeared on Legal Business