Effective on 1 June, the merger between 39-office firm Squire Sanders and 330-lawyer Washington outfit Patton Boggs will bring together the larger firm’s global platform with Patton Boggs’ white collar expertise in the US, but what will it mean for lawyers in London and Europe?
With over 1,500 lawyers spanning 44 offices in 21 countries, the combined firm is expected to be placed in the top 25 firms globally by lawyer headcount and eighth by number of countries occupied, based on figures from the American Lawyer.
According to Peter Crossley, who will continue as European managing partner at the combined firm, the merger is ‘universal good news for any partner in Europe’, where Patton Boggs has no offices but has long sent instructions, particularly in funds work, from its offices in the Middle East, namely Abu Dhabi; Doha; Dubai and Riyadh.
In contrast, Squire Sanders – one of the few US firms with regional offices, stemming from the 2010 transatlantic merger of the UK’s Hammonds with then Squire Sanders & Dempsey – has 71 partners in the regions alone, spread across Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester. Including London, it has four UK offices and a total of 18 across Europe.
With the addition of Patton Boggs, Crossley says the firm is now well-positioned to launch a fund formation group in London, with plans already in place to relocate a Patton Boggs partner from Washington DC or New York to oversee growth of this group in the City. Crossley says the move ‘is a direct result of the merger’ and will be fed by Patton Boggs’ clients in the Middle East, where the firm has two private investment funds partners and three associates.
Crossley explains: ‘The opportunities within the Middle East are such that we’ll be expanding into new areas of expertise. We don’t have too much in the way of funds formation expertise at the moment and that’s the area we’ll be investing in moving forward. We have some resource but it’s not significant enough with the type of work we will have coming down the track, principally emanating from clients in the Middle East.’
Squire Sanders’ own Middle East practice is expected to benefit and, at the time of the merger announcement on 27 May, Crossley said in a statement: ‘This combination is great news for our European and Middle East presence by adding greater heft in the US market, which is most capable of generating work internationally.’ The only jurisdictional overlap with Patton Boggs is in Riyadh, where both firms have an alliance, although here it is Squire Sanders’ presence that is the largest, with four dedicated fee-earners and a further seven that split their time between Riyadh and Beirut.
Another practice area expected to benefit from the combination in London is arbitration, where George von Mehren, who continues as head of international arbitration at the combined firm.
‘In my group I would expect 50% growth in London within a year and a half at a minimum, in terms of revenue and number of partners. There is the Patton Boggs synergy and the synergies in the law firm that we can take advantage of,’ he says. The firm currently has five London-based partners that handle arbitration, with a further partner hire expected imminently.
Patton Boggs’ arbitration expertise largely resides within insurance and reinsurance, reducing the risk of conflicts between the combined practice group’s clients. Von Mehren says existing plans to expand the group in Asia will now ‘move quicker and more efficiently’ than before the merger.
Overlap and conflicts are minimal, Crossley stresses, although chairman-elect Jim Maiwurm said on a conference call when the merger was first announced, that ‘a few people will be affected by conflicts and will not be able to join the combined firm’.
These are likely to fall in the US, where both firms are headquartered, with disputes – where Patton Boggs’ co-chair of commercial litigation and antitrust Benjamin Chew exited ahead of the merger – likely to be most affected. For London and Europe, so far, there seems to be little in the way of downside.