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2,000 lawyers across 28 offices: Bingham loses out on rescue merger as Morgan Lewis acquires 227 partners

Following much touted speculation of the potential merger between US firms Morgan, Lewis & Bockius and Bingham McCutchen, Morgan Lewis has decided to cherry pick 227 partners.

Morgan Lewis’ partnership voted on 14 November in favour of a mass team hire as opposed to a merger or rescue deal between the two firms.

The move leaves Boston-bred Bingham with a smattering of lawyers and up to 14 office leases, and it is unclear at present what these partners intend to do. It is understood that Bingham McCutchen’s partnership voted in favour of the merger early last week.

The additions mean Morgan Lewis will house nearly 2,000 lawyers in 28 offices across the US – with particular concentration along the East and West – and in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. The partners are expected to join Morgan Lewis before the end of November 2014.

Bingham was listed as having 298 partners in the Global 100, while Morgan Lewis had 494 partners, meaning the acquisition takes Morgan Lewis’ partnership to over 700.

The acquisition raises serious questions regarding Bingham McCutchen’s future and follows the collapse of its London office after Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld combined with a 28-strong team led by James Roome from Bingham that also included partners in Hong Kong and Germany. The move brought together Akin Gump’s financial restructuring practice in the US with the London-based leaders of Bingham McCutchen’s financial restructuring group.

News of Bingham McCutchen’s loss follows a tough year of falling revenues. While the firm weathered the financial downturn extremely well thanks largely to a booming restructuring practice, Bingham suffered a 12.6% drop in global revenues in 2013 to $762m from $871.8m in 2012. London revenue was down 4.4% to $52.3m in 2013 from $54.7m in 2012 which Roome attributed to a much softer debt restructuring market in 2013. Revenue per lawyer in the City was also down by 6% to $1.09m from $1.16m last year.