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01/08/07

Another Dream Crashed


With Dewey Ballantine and Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe calling off their engagement, the greatest fairytale merger crashed. Yet another merger was sacrificed when both firms were fine-tuning the details.

The courtship, which began with a bang at the end of October, last year, raised eyebrows in the legal arena when the pace of progress slackened considerably in mid-December. Though those at the helm of affairs in both the firms put up a brave face at that time, it couldn’t get past individual hitches which culminated in the announcement by the respective firms on Thursday, calling off the merger.

Earlier from choosing a name and allocation of new positions, to declaring its combined strength, both firms, Dewey and Orrick, were quite confident on becoming one of the nation’s largest legal advisers based in New York and San Francisco. However, the partners to be weren’t as upbeat and voting to this effect were being continuously pushed backwards.

The attrition of valuable partners from Dewey was one of the most significant starters in the initial hiccups. Since the merger talks began and till date, 10 partners have bowed out of the firm. The other intractable issues that may have added to the weight include loss of identity, un-demarcated authority, and unfunded pensions, where the old partners have to undergo foreseeable pay cuts to help their new colleagues retire happily. The attrition, opines pundits and observers, might have been a result of this hackneyed debate on pensions. Orrick had considerably greater advantage from the merger’s finer details than would have Dewey, they add.

For Orrick, this is nothing new, as the firm had developed many merger plans including Coudert Brothers in 2005 and Donovan, Leisure, Newton & Irvine in the late nineties which never reached fruition. However, the firm chiefs are united in their stand to be separate. Ralph Baxter, Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe’s captain stated that though mergers are advantageous for law firms’ growth, it needn’t be the only method to grow, an opinion shared by Morton A. Pierce, Chairman of Dewey, who added that to part ways was the best option for the firms and their individual interests.

Established in 1863, Orrick, one of San Francisco’s oldest law firms, has more than 950 lawyers could amass $666 million for the 2006 fiscal year, a sum drawn mostly from its debt financing and capital market transactions and restructurings practices. On its front, Dewey with its strength of 550 lawyers, specialized in M&As and accrued $408 million in gross revenue within the same time period.

Stone Pigman goes to Baton Rouge
New Orleans-based corporate law firm Stone Pigman Walther Wittmann LLC has acquired six-and-a-half year-old young law firm McKay, Lutgring and Cochran in Baton Rouge.

The 52-attorney strong Stone Pigman Walther Wittmann, an eight decade old corporate litigator consolidated its Baton Rouge operations with the addition of the McKay Lutgring and Cochran. However the financial terms of the deal are awaited. Two of its employees based at the State National Life building moved to the same house with the new partners Michael McKay, Michael Lutgring and Douglas Cochran to continue practice along with six more people.

Stating that Baton Rouge’s evolving economy and the progress of general business in the entire region creates market for legal firms to grow in the area, Phil Wittmann, managing partner at Stone Pigman said that the firm is familiar with the market for more than 30 years through its acquisition, construction, and financing of the Mall of Louisiana and liaison with developer Bob Dean, All Star Automotive and Acadian Ambulance.

The firm which also serves as counsel to the Louisiana Public Service Commission on utility rate reviews and recovery matters will concentrate on corporate litigation and commercial law, including transactions, mergers and acquisitions in the new firm.

Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP

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