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

, The Am Law Daily

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Jerry Clements
Jerry Clements

The London launch came a year after Locke Lord opened in Hong Kong, an outpost the firm bolstered earlier this year by entering into an association with local firm Cheung & Lee, according to sibling publication The Asian Lawyer. Locke Lord's Hong Kong base subsequently added five more lawyers from firms like K&L Gates, Loeb & Loeb, and Squire Sanders.

Hiring groups of laterals has been a Locke Lord strategy in other cities. In 2009, the firm opened a San Francisco office after absorbing most of crumbling IP boutique Morgan & Finnegan just months before the firm filed for bankruptcy. In 2011, Locke Lord added a dozen lawyers in Sacramento from Bullivant Houser Bailey.

Such growth hasn't always been smooth. Some lateral hires washed out quickly, gross revenue and profits fell in what was a difficult 2010, and, as at many firms, the recession led to layoffs.

The merger between Lord Bissell and Locke Liddell also resulted in the forced departure of some partners, with one running into serious financial troubles and another claiming in a suit filed against Locke Lord that he was pressured to vote in favor of a union. (The docket in that case shows it has been dismissed.)

Those issues aside, most of the roughly half-dozen former Locke Lord partners interviewed for this story praised Clements’ leadership in melding the operations and cultures of both legacy firms. These former partners note that minimizing geographic overlap was a key factor in ensuring the success of the Locke Liddell and Lord Bissell merger.

Clements acknowledges that geographic considerations are also playing a role in Locke Lord’s current talks with Patton Boggs. Newberry said last week that his firm's strategic plan calls for expansion in places like California, London, New York and Texas—all places where Locke Lord already has outposts. Should the two firms combine, they would have duplicate offices in just three cities: Dallas, New York, and Washington, D.C.

One former partner notes that bulking up in two of those cities would be in line with Locke Lord's ultimate goal.

“Locke Lord wants to become an international firm, and I think the mindset among firm leaders is that it has to get bigger in order to compete in today’s environment,” says this ex-partner. “Having a significant presence in New York and D.C. goes toward building that critical mass.”

Locke Lord's current D.C. office, which it opened back in 2005, is modest, while its New York base is slightly larger than that of Patton Boggs. (The latter also as an outpost in Newark, which lost its local managing partner to Morgan, Lewis & Bockius in August and has been hit hard by layoffs.)

Clements says she wants Locke Lord to expand in D.C. and New York, which she calls the “two largest and most challenging” markets to grow.

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