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Merger talks: Orrick and Pillsbury call time on talks after client conflict issues dominate

The potentially game changing merger between California-based Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe and New York-headquartered Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman is off after the firms said issues surrounding client conflicts of interest had proved insurmountable.

The firms disclosed around a month ago that they were in talks, with a view to creating a 1,800-lawyer practice with revenues of around $1.4bn, putting the combined entity in the top 15 law firms in the world by fee income.

The declaration that the firms were in talks was made in the name Orrick Pillsbury and widely interpreted as meaning that a deal could be sealed within weeks. However, in a mutual statement issued in the US yesterday (25 November) the firms clarified that their decision to call off the talks came ‘prior to the execution of a letter of intent or submitting the matter to either partnership for a vote.’

The firms added: ‘We mutually determined that we will not be able to proceed due to prospective client conflicts that we have not been able to resolve, notwithstanding each firm’s best efforts. Our two firms come away from these discussions with enormous respect for each other both institutionally and across our management teams, a mutual respect that has only grown throughout our discussions.’

Orrick chairman Mitch Zuklie commented: ‘Pillsbury has long been known to us as a firm with high calibre legal talent and a client-focused culture much like ours. Large law firm combinations are always complex, and both our firms are disappointed that we could not clear the way for a merger.’

Both firms have previously sought merger partners in recent years without success. Orrick entertained and publicly pulled out of talks with Dewey Ballantine in 2006, a move that saw the New York firm instead merge with LeBoeuf, Lamb, Greene & MacRae, creating the ill-fated Dewey & LeBoeuf. Orrick has also previously held discussions with UK firms Bird & Bird and SJ Berwin.