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US expansion: Dentons and McKenna Long set to combine

Having just announced its combination with Chinese firm Dacheng in January, a deal which will establish a 6,600 lawyer giant operating under a Swiss verein structure, Dentons has moved to bolster its US capabilities with a combination with Atlanta-based McKenna Long & Aldridge.

Having been approved by the partners of both firms and confirmed today (9 April), the firm said clients inside the US will now ‘gain unrivalled access to markets around the world, and international clients will enjoy increased strength across the US.’ It added that the firm’s corporate, litigation, real estate, insurance, government contracts, and IP practices would be the main beneficiaries.

The combination is set to become effective later this year and will see Dentons US led by co-chief executives Jeff Haidet, the current chair of McKenna Long, and its existing chief executive Peter Wolfson. US managing partner of Dentons US, Mike McNamara, will be managing partner of the new entity while leadership in the firm’s other regions will remain unchanged.

In an unusual statement, the firm added that the ‘overwhelming percentage of economic interest of both firms approved the merger and will be combining together’ however, ‘by mutual decision, not all lawyers and professionals will join the combined firm. By agreement with those not joining, announcements will be made when individuals determine where they are going to continue their careers.’

It is known that Dentons had been scoping the market for a US combination for some time, and previously attempted a tie-up with McKenna Long in 2013. Such attempts were unsuccessful after partners rejected the move following a vote.

McKenna Long chair Jeff Haidet said: ‘Our merger with Dentons is the result of a thoughtful, year-long strategic planning process culminating in a positive path for the future of McKenna Long and our clients. The advantages to our clients and our people are clear, and we are excited to embrace in the US an unmatched global platform.’

Commenting Dentons’ chair Joe Andrew added: ‘Joining with the tremendous talent, expertise and leadership of McKenna Long after combining with 大成, shows that Dentons’ inventive, polycentric approach has created not only the largest law firm in the world, but the leading law firm in the world.’

The deal with McKenna Long, which was formed from the 2002 merger of Atlanta’s Long Aldridge & Norman and Washington-based McKenna & Cuneo, is the latest example of consolidation in the US. In November Morgan, Lewis & Bockius completed a ‘transaction’ which saw 226 lawyers and more than 525 other lawyers, legal professionals and staff move over from Boston-bred Bingham, a rescue deal creating a 2,000 lawyer firm, while Dallas-bred Locke Lord and Boston’s Edwards Wildman Palmer rubber-stamped their union in December to generate gross revenues of $675m and a headcount of 1,000 lawyers.