Locke Lord's MP Clements Weighs in on Patton Boggs Talks

, The Am Law Daily

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Jerry Clements
Jerry Clements

Indeed, as the high-end legal services market continues to consolidate in a year that legal consultancy Altman Weil states is on track to be a record-breaker for law firm mergers—Dentons and McKenna Long & Aldridge are pursuing a tie-up under the Swiss verein structure and the last firm on The American Lawyer’s Global 100 list, Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman, is discussing a potential combination with Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe—a close look at Patton Boggs and Locke Lord suggests there are reasons beyond mere size for both firms to consider joining forces.

Interviews with more than a dozen current and former Locke Lord and Patton Boggs partners and on-the-record discussions with Clements and Newberry reveal some of the benefits both firms might find in a merger, as well as some of the potential pitfalls they face as they vet client conflicts, align real estate obligations and negotiate the leadership and compensation structure of a merged firm.

LOCKE LORD’S AMBITIONS

For Locke Lord, a 520-lawyer firm that adopted its current name in September 2011, combining with Patton Boggs would be the latest in a series of combinations that have brought about both geographic and financial growth.

The expansion began in 1999, when legacy firm Locke Liddell & Sapp was formed following the union of Dallas-based Locke Purnell Rain Harrell and Houston-based Liddell, Sapp, Zivley, Hill & LaBoon. At the time, it was the largest law firm merger in U.S. history.

Clements counts as a mentor Harriet Miers, a Locke Lord litigation and public policy partner, former Locke Purnell and Locke Liddell managing partner and onetime U.S. Supreme Court nominee. In 2006, Clements took the helm at Locke Liddell. One year into her reign, she helped orchestrate a merger with Lord, Bissell & Brook, an old line Chicago firm known for its insurance group cofounded in 1914 by former U.S. Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes. (As noted by The Am Law Daily last year, the merger went live a day after Dewey Ballantine and LeBoeuf, Lamb, Greene & MacRae grabbed headlines by unveiling what proved to be their ill-fated union.)

While Locke Lord has not completed another merger of similar size since then, the firm has grown in other ways and has stayed active in talking with other members of The Am Law 100.

In 2010, for example, five former Locke Lord partners say the firm came close to voting on a merger with Nixon Peabody. The potential combination collapsed as the result of a leadership change at Nixon Peabody that December. (Nixon Peabody CEO and managing partner Andrew Glincher did not return a request for comment.)

Three more ex-partners say Locke Lord was also keen on picking up practice groups from Salans—particularly its Asian operations—prior to the European firm's three-way merger with SNR Denton and Canadian firm Fraser Milner Casgrain that created Dentons earlier this year.

Last week marked the two-year anniversary of Locke Lord heading to London through its hire of seven Salans partners. Restructuring partner David Grant, who this month took the lead on U.K. bankruptcy proceedings for video rental chain Blockbuster, and former Salans global managing partner Roger Abrahams were among those who came aboard. Abrahams now serves as a consultant to Locke Lord, where he is involved in the firm's lateral hiring and push to expand internationally, according to two former partners.

Since recruiting the Salans group, Locke Lord’s London base has grown to more than 30 lawyers thanks to an aggressive hiring strategy that brought on Berwin Leighton Paisner real estate finance partner Ayesha Hasan, Mayer Brown reinsurance litigation partner Ian McKenna, Steptoe & Johnson insurance partners Damian Cleary and Gavin Coull, and former Dewey & LeBoeuf labor and employment partner Sara Linton, who now heads Locke Lord's U.K. employment group.

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