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Reed Smith to merge with London-based Richards Butler

Reed Smith, the East Bay's largest law firm, and Richards Butler, a 250-attorney London-based practice, have announced plans to complete a full merger by January 1, 2007.

The transaction is currently subject to negotiations and votes by both firms' partners and is expected to be completed by late May. The new firm will be called Reed Smith in the U.S. and Reed Smith Richards Butler throughout most of Europe.

The proposed merger will provide Reed Smith with strong practices in corporate transactions, commercial litigation and arbitration, transportation, media, real estate, employment law and business immigration. Reed Smith chairman Gregory B. Jordan will act as the firmwide managing partner. Roger Parker of Richards Butler is expected to join the senior management team and will take on the role of European managing partner for the merged entity.

The new firm will consist of more than 1,300 lawyers. Reed Smith's London presence will total almost 300 attorneys with global revenues expected to reach $725 million. The firm will also benefit from access to the Piraeus, Abu Dhabi and Greek legal markets.

Pittsburgh-based Reed Smith first entered the London market in 2001 by merging with Warner Cranston and also has offices in Paris and Munich.

CAFTA to create more work for law firms
The Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) is expected to generate an additional $2.5 billion in annual sales in California by 2014, thus creating the 10th largest U.S. export market.

The deal was signed last year between the U.S. and five Central American countries. Costa Rica has not yet sanctioned the treaty.

As barriers to trade and investments break down, lawyers in California and Central America are anticipating more legal work, generated between the U.S. and its southern neighbors. With the new trade pact, foreign companies are expected to build more factories in Central America, export more products to the U.S. and negotiate more contracts. This will create new work in the areas of arbitration, corporate, contracts and tax law. Firms specializing in international trade and lawyers with multi-lingual skills are likely to lead the way.

Small firms vs. Big law
A significant majority of all law firms employ only one to ten attorneys according to a survey of small firms conducted by The American Bar Association.

Solo practice and small firms offer significant advantages, including flexibility in case and client selection, office hours and workload. For lawyers wanting to work part time, solo practice or small firms present the perfect alternative to big law. While 95% of law firms have policies for part-time work, only 3% of their lawyers actually work part time.

Even though solo practitioners and small law firms constitute such a large part of the legal market, there is little training and mentoring in the field. Significant start-up costs and smaller profits are deterrents to this career path. According to a study, 86% of law students claimed that upon graduation they would prefer big law practice.

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