Aborted Talks Do Not Curb Appetite for N.Y. Mergers

, New York Law Journal

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The end of merger talks between Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe and Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman over client conflicts and McKenna Long & Aldridge's partners' rejection of a tie-up with Dentons illustrate how complicated and volatile the merger process can be.

But despite the difficulties, "there are lots of breakfasts going on" in New York City, said Jon Lindsey, partner and recruiter at Major Lindsey & Africa.

Merging into New York remains a priority for many out-of-state firms. "A lot of our client law firms based outside of New York are always actively looking and interested," Lindsey said, adding that any New York firm that is receptive to a merger is "very popular right now. There's no shortage of suitors."

One suitor is Patton Boggs, founded in Washington, D.C., which has a few more than 20 lawyers in New York. Patton is in preliminary talks with Locke Lord, which has deep roots in Texas and a 46-attorney New York office.

Patton is also seeking to merge with a New York-based firm, preferably one with 100 attorneys or under, said John Nonna, managing partner of the firm's New York office.

After years of growing slowly through individual hires, Nonna said the firm has approached a few Manhattan firms with the goal of merging by the end of the first quarter of 2014.

The firm is also looking for lateral groups with portable books of business that collectively bring $3 to $5 million, he said.

"Any firm of international presence needs a robust New York office," Nonna said. "Our office is relatively small and we need to grow and we are keeping our eyes open for both groups and a potential merger."

There are no serious discussions yet with firms other than Locke Lord, he said. But talks with one New York-based firm are progressing, though Nonna declined to name the firm.

Patton is looking for a transactional practice that complements its private equity and international practices in other offices, Nonna said.

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