Legal Business

Allen & Overy suffers ‘data incident’ as ransomware group LockBit claims responsibility

Allen & Overy has confirmed that it has suffered a ‘data incident’. Posts from X user and self-described ‘threat intelligence platform for cybersecurity’ @FalconFeedsio on Wednesday 8 November suggested that cybercriminal group LockBit had targeted the firm, with a threat to release ‘all available data’ by 28 November.

‘We have experienced a data incident impacting a small number of storage servers’, said an A&O spokesperson. ‘Investigations to date have confirmed that data in our core systems, including our email and document management system, has not been affected.

‘The firm continues to operate normally with some disruption arising from steps taken to contain the incident.’

The firm claims that the incident is under control: ‘Our technical response team, working alongside an independent cybersecurity adviser, took immediate action to isolate and contain the incident. Detailed cyber forensic work continues to investigate and remediate the incident.

‘As a matter of priority, we are assessing exactly what data has been impacted, and we are informing affected clients. We appreciate that this is an important matter for our clients, and we take this very seriously. Keeping our clients’ data safe, secure, and confidential is an absolute priority.’

A&O declined to comment further. The firm did not respond to requests to confirm LockBit’s involvement.

In June, GCHQ’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) issued a joint advisory alongside agencies from the United States, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, and New Zealand stating that LockBit was ‘almost certainly the most deployed ransomware strain in the UK and that it continues to present the highest ransomware threat to UK organisations.’

LockBit hit Royal Mail with a ransomware attack in January and leaked Royal Mail’s data on 23 February after Royal Mail refused to pay both an initial ransom demand of £66m and a subsequent demand for £47m. The cybercriminal group also announced that it had hit Boeing in late October. Boeing confirmed the cyberattack in early November and was re-added to LockBit’s list of victims on 7 November after disappearing from the list on 30 October, according to FalconFeeds.

The SRA in June 2022 issued a risk outlook report entitled ‘Information security and cybercrime in a new normal’. In the report, it noted that ‘increased dependence on IT’ since the Covid-19 pandemic ‘creates more opportunities for cybercriminals.’

A&O is not the first major firm to suffer from a data breach. DLA Piper was shut down by a cyberattack in 2017. And in June, ransomware group CL0P posted the names of Kirkland & Ellis, K&L Gates, and Proskauer Rose to its leak site, although none of the firms responded to requests for comment.

BCLP, meanwhile, discovered it had been hacked in late February, in a breach that exposed the personal data of more than 50,000 current and former employees of client Mondelēz International. In June, a class action suit was filed against BCLP in the Northern District of Illinois. The case remains ongoing. BCLP did not respond to requests for comment.

‘These [data breaches] are causing a tremendous amount of harm’, said Thomas Zimmerman, an attorney at Chicago-based Zimmerman Law Offices, which is bringing the class action against BCLP. ‘Clients I represent who have had data stolen have dealt with loans being opened up in their names, their credit score hijacked, mortgages opened up in their names for homes. And they’re stuck with it, you can’t change a social security number like you can open a new bank account, people suffer the consequences for years.’

There has never been a data breach group action litigated in an English court. The prospects for bringing such a claim are complicated by the fact that opt-out claims can currently only be brought in England at the Competition Appeals Tribunal (CAT). And many in the market are sceptical that a data breach claim could be adequately formulated as a competition claim.

The A&O data breach was first reported in the Financial Times.

Legal Business

It’s a ‘yes’ from them – A&O and Shearman partners vote through landmark $3.5bn transatlantic deal

Allen & Overy (A&O) and Shearman & Sterling are set to go ahead with their transatlantic merger, after partners at both firms voted overwhelmingly in favour of the union, with support from more than 99% of votes cast at each firm.

The pair is expected to combine as A&O Shearman from May 2024 at the latest – creating ‘the first fully integrated global elite law firm’, with nearly 4,000 lawyers across 48 offices and 29 countries.

With combined revenue of roughly $3.5bn, the merged firm will sit comfortably within the top five of the LB global 100 – behind Kirkland & Ellis, Latham & Watkins and DLA Piper.

Partner voting on the combination kicked off on 28 September, and was scheduled to run until 13 October, with the firms needing to secure the approval of 75% of partners to get the deal over the line.

Announcing the move, A&O senior partner Wim Dejonghe (pictured) said: ‘This is a historic moment for both firms and our profession. We are delighted that our partners have voted so resoundingly in favour of this merger, which is a transformational step for the legal industry. We have long admired Shearman & Sterling for its outstanding reputation, talent, and client base, and we are confident that together we will create a truly exceptional global firm that will serve our clients’ needs in an increasingly complex and dynamic world.’

Shearman senior partner Adam Hakki added: ‘Our partners have recognized and welcomed this unparalleled opportunity to combine our individual market leadership and brands to serve clients as an integrated global law firm, preeminent in all our markets. A&O Shearman will be a firm unlike any other in the world, built to achieve exceptional outcomes for our clients through an intentional focus on quality, excellence, and collaboration. We are creating a new industry leader, with truly global capabilities, and we are excited for what is to come.’

The firms announced they were in merger discussions in May this year and the deal had been widely expected to go ahead, with management at both firms embarking on a series of roadshows around the world over the summer to shore up support.

The combination marks the first transatlantic merger involving a Magic Circle firm since Clifford Chance’s ill-fated union with Rogers & Wells in 2000 and comes after A&O held unsuccessful talks with O’Melveny & Myers in 2019.

Shearman, meanwhile, was engaged in talks with Hogan Lovells as recently as this year, with the pair announcing the end of discussions in March. The firm has struggled to keep pace with New York rivals in recent years. With its traditional banking client-base, it has not made the same push into private equity as its rivals, something management at the combined firm is keen to rectify.

Shearman has also been hit by partner exits around the world, including finance partners Philip Stopford and Korey Fevzi, who left in March this year to launch the English-law offering at Cravath, Swaine & Moore in London. The firm named respected litigator Adam Hakki as the senior partner successor to David Beveridge the same month.

Market reaction to the deal has been largely positive. Jomati founder Tony Williams, who was previously managing partner at CC before its US merger, commented: ‘A&O was lucky. The previous discussions with O’Melveny made partners understand how difficult getting a US deal is. The partners were more amenable to compromise on issues that, if not for that experience, might have been sticking points.’

Another commentator noted: ‘It’s been handled extremely well. Both firms have had failed merger attempts recently. Both sides understood the importance of managing communications – even simple things like who gets informed in what order. Communications strategy is crucial and has been really well handled. The whole thing was presented as a proper corporate deal.’

The deal will heap pressure on the remaining magic circle firms to come up with credible offerings of their own in the US. There has not been a significant UK/US merger since 2018, when BCLP was created. This deal came after Eversheds Sutherland was formed in 2017, while Norton Rose Fulbright happened in 2013 and Hogan Lovells in 2010.

As Williams commented: ‘It’s transformative in one key respect: it is a fundamental shift in what the top UK firms have been able to achieve in the United States.’

‘You’ve now got one more 64,000lb gorilla, with a unique capability that doesn’t really exist elsewhere’ adds a former UK firm head. ‘A&O Shearman now has a capability that the other Magic Circle firms don’t have. These things don’t change overnight – no one will be out of business all of a sudden. But over time, over around 10 years, it could be transformative. It’s like a snowball. It gathers momentum. It’s really a challenge for the [rest of the] Magic Circle.’

Maurice Allen, founder of legal consultancy LTN & Partners, argued that in addition to the direct benefits from the merger itself, the merged firm will also be a more attractive proposition for other lawyers, potentially making it easier to further build on the corporate side: ‘It’s a big leg up for clients and for recruitment. There’s no doubt A&O is more attractive now.

‘For people sitting in London, either at a US firm where they’re not enjoying life, or at a UK firm where they feel they aren’t reacting to the challenge of the US firms, A&O Shearman starts to look very attractive.’

Legal Business

A&O Shearman merger vote to kick off this month as pensions issues overcome

Allen & Overy and Shearman & Sterling today (18 September) announced that their respective partnerships will start voting on their proposed merger on 28 September, with the voting window to close on 13 October and results announced soon after. For the merger to be voted through, 75% of the partnerships will have to vote in favour of the deal.

‘Over the past few months, partners and teams from both firms have been meeting and building relationships, and the excitement about the opportunities for the merged firm is palpable’, said A&O senior partner Wim Dejonghe (pictured) in a statement.

‘We have made significant progress since announcing the combination, and our clients have expressed enthusiasm for the combination and for what A&O Shearman will be able to deliver’, agreed Shearman senior partner Adam Hakki. ‘Our partners and colleagues are very much supportive and eager to launch the combined firm.’

Over the summer, Dejonghe and Hakki made several ‘roadshow’ trips to many of the two firms’ offices around the world to field questions from partners and to bolster support for the combination.

Now, the two firms also report ‘the successful completion of a number of key transaction milestones’, including financial and operational due diligence and ‘the filing of requests for antitrust clearances’. Crucially, the statement also confirms ‘the completion of approval for all required modifications to retirement and pension programs.’

Many in the market saw Shearman’s pension liabilities as the biggest potential sticking point for the merger, and they are widely considered to have been the issue that caused Hogan Lovells to walk away from its own mooted combination with Shearman in March.

Comments in September from Hogan Lovells’ chief executive Miguel Zaldivar did little to dispel this perception: ‘We are not interested in deals that come with significant pension obligations, debts, or firms that have experienced a drop in revenue, talent, or partners.’

A&O has continued a spate of hiring activity in the months since the merger was announced, in particular in the US, though it did see some losses in other regions. The firm also faced some disruption with the shock resignation in July of managing partner Gareth Price, ‘for personal reasons’, with Abu Dhabi capital markets partner Khalid Garousha named as interim managing partner two weeks later.

Shearman, meanwhile, has faced a steady trickle of partner departures, including in July the loss of five partners in one week across its London and Washington DC offices.

Few in the market view these departures as cause for concern, however, and most accept that some level of rationalisation is a natural part of a merger of this scale.

The two firms themselves remain optimistic. The official announcement notes that ‘all transaction milestones have been met thus far and support for the combination among clients, partners, and colleagues has been overwhelmingly positive worldwide.’

With the pension issue put to bed, this confidence may prove well-founded.

Legal Business

A&O names Garousha interim managing partner ahead of Shearman merger vote

The board of Allen & Overy has chosen Abu Dhabi capital markets partner Khalid Garousha (pictured) as interim global managing partner as the dust has started to settle on the shock resignation of Gareth Price.

The move, announced today (27 July), came after senior partner Wim Dejonghe covered the role since the firm on 13 July announced Price’s departure for ‘personal reasons’ at the same time as releasing its financial results.

Garousha, who will remain as regional managing partner of the Middle East and Turkey, will take on the global managing partner role on 1 September and will serve until 30 April 2024.

‘Khalid is ideally suited to take up the role’, said Dejonghe in a statement. ‘I would like to thank him on behalf of the firm for his commitment and leadership. I look forward to working closely with him to continue delivering on our strategic aims, staying focused on our clients and people and holding the proposed merger vote by the end of October.’

The move comes at a time of great upheaval for A&O. In addition to the proposed tie-up with Shearman & Sterling, the firm has leadership elections scheduled for early next year, with Dejonghe’s second term as senior partner set to come to an end.

Commenting on his appointment, Garousha said: ‘It is a privilege to be asked by the board to take up this role. Wim and I will work together during this exciting time to continue growing our firm and to deliver excellent service to our clients.’

Legal Business

A&O managing partner Price departs pre-merger as revenue passes £2bn

Allen & Overy today (13 July) announced the shock resignation of managing partner Gareth Price amid a set of financial results that saw the Magic Circle firm break £2bn in revenue for the first time.

The firm said Price’s resignation was due to ‘personal reasons’ and came as revenue jumped nearly 8% from £1.94bn last year to £2.1bn in 2022/23. While eye-catching, the level of turnover growth fell slightly short of the 10% uptick achieved last year, of which more than half was attributed to A&O’s US business.

Profit per equity partner (PEP) dropped 6.6% from £1.95m to £1.82m, while profit before tax dipped slightly to £892m after a 9% hike to £900m last year.

Price was elected A&O’s managing partner in February 2020. News of his departure has been met by surprise, not least because he had been hotly tipped internally to stand again for managing partner in the firm’s 2024 leadership elections, a move that could be seen as a vote for continuity as A&O faces inevitable challenges posed by its proposed merger with Shearman & Sterling.

‘The board has asked me to step in to cover the [managing partner] role’, senior partner Wim Dejonghe told Legal Business. ‘They will make a decision on a more permanent solution in the autumn. Leadership elections were scheduled for early next year, after the merger vote. The board also has to decide whether they stick to that schedule or not.’

On the financials, A&O reported strong growth in private capital revenue of more than 60% for the last two years. In the US, ‘growth and expansion has remained a high priority’ – unsurprising given the firm’s pursuit of the Shearman merger. A&O pointed to the region as one of its strong performers, alongside Africa, Europe, and the Middle East, which saw its ‘strongest financial performance ever’, driven by what it describes as ‘a hot IPO market’, as well as by opportunities in Saudi Arabia.

A&O’s Advanced Delivery & Solutions (AD&S) business also grew by 13%.

While the US accounted for over 50% of the firm’s revenue growth last year, this year Dejonghe said it accounted for less than half. ‘It’s up in absolute figures, but it’s not 50% of the growth,’ he said.

A&O also reported strong performance in energy transition, technology, and private capital: ‘With the energy transition, there’s a lot of financing needed in the energy and infrastructure space. That’s definitely a strong growth point for us. Technology, both on the litigation and the transactional side, has also seen massive growth, as has private capital on the debt side,’ Dejonghe added.

Dejonghe explained the drop in PEP with reference to macroeconomic conditions and a competitive legal market. ‘We’re in an inflationary environment. Costs generally have gone up. And of course there’s been a salary war in the industry around the world. We’ve defended our position, and we’ve had to spend quite a bit more on salaries to keep and recruit the best talent.’

A&O has no plans to slow its investment. ‘In terms of sectors, we’re focusing on technology, energy transition, and private money. We’re investing quite heavily in those practices around the world.’

But, unsurprisingly, the lion’s share of attention will go to the proposed combination with Shearman. ‘Obviously, the merger will be a priority going forward’, said Dejonghe. ‘There’s no doubt about that.’

Legal Business

Pride Month 2023: ‘I was told that I needed to tone my “gayness” down in order to be successful’

Allen & Overy DE&I ambassador Justin Farrance on the challenges still facing the City law LGBTQ+ community and how social media can drive change.

You use social media as a key platform for advocating for LGBTQ+ representation – what led you to start doing this?

When deciding to enter the profession, I was told that I needed to hide my sexuality, or ‘tone my gayness down’, in order to be successful. I was left to believe that I simply cannot succeed by being myself. I slowly became more comfortable and as a result of the support I received from Allen & Overy and various mentors, I wanted to make sure others were not made to feel the same way I once was.

How effective a tool have you found it? 

I started using social media as a way to reach wider, more diverse audiences. I really only had one goal, which was to make sure others felt that they belonged, no matter their background, gender, sexuality or identity. When I started posting, only a couple of people would view my posts. Now my LinkedIn posts are often viewed by 200,000+ people, showing just how important it can be to use your voice for good.

I use social media in my role as ambassador for DE&I at Allen & Overy, to amplify and continue our important DE&I work as well as spotlighting our incredible teams – it’s been an impactful way to hear from colleagues and clients from across most corners of the world.

What has been your biggest achievement on social media and worst experience?

My biggest achievement has been receiving an award and written letter from the Prime Minister – those things don’t happen to me! I started to support people through social media and didn’t expect my story or charity to resonate with so many people. Seeing a letter at work stamped from 10 Downing Street was a full circle moment when I look back at the barriers I’ve faced.

I’m also really happy that I took the step to found a DE&I focused charity (GROW Mentoring) with no financing and no paid advertising, with social media in part helping to amplify our message.

In terms of my worst? I occasionally receive hateful messages purely because of my sexuality – I’m lucky and grateful to have a very close support network during those times.

What is the single biggest challenge still facing the LGBTQ+ community in City law? How can it be addressed?

Some LGBTQ+ people feel that they will not be able to rise to the top of the profession – for a number of reasons. We also have a way to go in supporting and increasing the number of Trans colleagues within our profession, focusing on ensuring they feel that they can progress and thrive in their legal careers.

What motivated you to actively use your position to advocate for LGBTQ+ voices in the legal sector?

I feel very lucky to be the first ambassador for DE&I at Allen & Overy, having pivoted from my role as an associate in late 2022, and there’s an element of privilege attached to that compared to other regions around the world. Working at Allen & Overy has allowed me to progress and meet some of the most inspiring people from around the world. When you’re surrounded by inspiring people, you begin to grow and feel that you too can make a positive impact. I’ve supported and led diversity initiatives across our Middle East region and European offices, with a brief visit to New York – there is a great deal of impact from sharing best practice from different regions and bringing colleagues together.

I founded a GROW Mentoring, a DE&I focused charity, during the Covid lockdown to support students who may be facing similar barriers to me. The charity was founded as a result of some of the situations I faced, and I wanted to play a small role in helping others, even if only removing one or two barriers. I never experienced the charity to scale so fast, where we now support 4000+ students from more than 100 universities.

How has the industry improved since you began your career?

I began my career as a worried trainee who was still not entire comfortable in his own skin. I’m now in a role speaking publicly about the importance of diversity in the firm and working with our leadership team on meaningful DE&I initiatives as a priority. I have seen a great deal of improvements and better representation across the profession, but we still have a way to go – especially from a global perspective. To think that I founded a charity along the way and am now in a new role and career at A&O, focused on amplifying and supporting our global DE&I strategies is pretty surreal and something I’m really proud of.

How helpful are role models in pushing change?

I think visibility, representation and role models are key. We often talk about the importance of role models for those entering the profession, but role models are also crucial for current professionals, no matter their level of seniority. Until we reach a stage where everyone can comfortably be their authentic self at work within the industry, we should continue to spotlight and empower role models at all stages. In my role I have the privilege of spotlighting and amplifying many of our inspiring role models who do incredible things to support others and I’m always left really inspired by the work they are doing, often behind the scenes, to make the workplace more accessible and inclusive.

Legal Business

Departures from Shearman and Allen & Overy as merger is unveiled and energy dominates lateral hiring

Following the announcement of the proposed A&O Shearman merger, news came that Shearman & Sterling had lost two partners to Ashurst in London, which leads the headline moves – dominated by energy and infrastructure hires – in recent weeks.

London-based Shearman partners Sanja Udovicic and Julia Derrick moved over to Ashurst to expand the firm’s global energy team.

Legal Business

Getting its mojo back: How A&O Shearman could redefine the Magic Circle

The proposed merger of A&O and Shearman & Sterling has got the market talking about the biggest news in the legal industry for decades. LB finds commentators sanguine on the deal – but management will have much work garnering partner support this summer ahead of the vote.

‘Allen & Overy and Shearman & Sterling to create the first fully integrated global elite law firm,’ proclaims the 21 May joint statement from the two firms, stating their intent to merge to create Allen Overy Shearman Sterling. Thankfully, the branding gurus also came up with the far snappier (and not quite so ampersand-devoid) A&O Shearman, ‘for short’. The combined firm would boast 3,900 lawyers across 49 offices and roughly $3.4bn in combined revenues.

Legal Business

A&O Shearman is a marriage of necessity, not convenience – now to give the rainmakers the hard sell

Easily the most enjoyable part about analysing the proposed merger of Allen & Overy and Shearman & Sterling has been hearing the reactions of leaders at peer firms around the City on the video featuring senior partners Wim Dejonghe and Adam Hakki on the new A&O Shearman website.

Hot-take reactions from the c-suite around the Square Mile have been telling and often amusing. Says one US firm leader: ‘It’s clearly not a merger, is it? It’s a takeover of Shearman by A&O, isn’t it?’ That is a point echoed by many, and it certainly does feel like A&O’s Dejonghe is in the driving seat of what is undeniably a very slick pitch, even if it does at times look like Hakki is in a hostage situation with Stockholm Syndrome.

Indeed, the fact that the announcement is conveyed in the language of dealmaking is not lost on most, as another US leader remarks: ‘This has been presented to appeal to the partners of both firms because it looks like a proper M&A deal. It’s the same language – “subject to customary closing conditions,” and with a financial adviser and independent legal advisers. That has to be part of the strategy to win the voters over. They are all shareholders.’

Several sources have noted surprise that the deal was announced before the vote this summer, which would require 75% of the partners at both firms to get behind the deal. Clearly, there are dangers in assuming this is a fait accompli and it might be worth the firms lowering that high threshold if they haven’t already, as one London managing partner suspects they have.

That commentator also cynically points to the staggering amount of times Dejonghe and Hakki insist this transaction is all about the clients (you could play a dangerous drinking game for every time they mention ‘clients’) but let’s look at the real motivations behind this deal.

The numbers are compelling enough to make even the most hard-bitten sceptic concede that this merger must happen, for the sake of both firms. The tie-up would see 3,900 lawyers operating across 49 offices and generate around $3.4bn in combined revenues, putting A&O Shearman fourth in the current Global 100 table, between DLA Piper and Baker McKenzie.

However, revenue per lawyer would be $872,000 – less than RPL at A&O and Shearman separately ($1.1m and $1.4m respectively) and over $1m per lawyer less than both Kirkland and Latham and significantly less than many of what might be considered ‘global elite firms.’

But profits are aligned, with PEP at A&O $2.7m, while the average partner at Shearman is taking home around $3m. This means that full financial integration, the thorn in the side of many a law firm merger, will be much easier to pull off, especially as the firms have agreed on a compensation model that moves A&O further away from a pure lockstep, a process that has been in train for about a decade.

Indeed, A&O voted through reforms as recently as 2020 in a bid to increase rewards for star performers even as the assault from US competitors continued to take its toll on London’s big four international firms.

Many commentators point to the strong pedigrees both firms have in their home markets, and this is evident in the data. In the US, A&O Shearman has the potential to enjoy top-tier rankings in The Legal 500 for securities litigation and project finance, and second tier rankings in key areas such as antitrust, disputes, capital markets and tax. However, for M&A (large deals) the firm would only be ranked in the third tier, tier five for restructuring, and would not be ranked at all for private equity.

The UK rankings would be much stronger. Tier one rankings would abound in numerous areas within finance, as well as restructuring, TMT and energy, while tier two rankings would apply to commercial litigation, big-ticket M&A and tax. Crucially, A&O Shearman would also be in the chasing pack for private equity.

You have to hand it to Dejonghe for not allowing his US merger imperative to be thwarted by the whimpering end to the merger talks with O’Melveny & Myers in 2019. If anything, that experience will mean that a lot of the hard yards have already been done to prime the partnership for what, don’t forget, would be only the second US merger for a Magic Circle firm ever (if Clifford Chance’s disaster-strewn takeover of Rogers & Wells 20 years ago really counts).

While one London managing partner damns the combination with faint praise: ‘It would be wrong to write this off as a hopeless or desperate merger,’ they have a point. These two firms have come of age and grown stronger with the battle scars, not least those born by Shearman after its damaging failed merger talks with Hogan Lovells, which prompted a string of high-profile exits in recent months.

As we pointed out when the O’Melveny talks collapsed, the only transatlantic deal that the Magic Circle globalists were ever going to strike was with a firm in decline. Shearman is certainly that, which is the reason it has swallowed its pride to countenance this deal at all.

We have known for some time that, with the insidious creep of thrusting US firms in the City, the term Magic Circle was becoming obsolete. Now it can safely be said that A&O Shearman heralds the death knell of the Magic Circle. It’s extremely difficult to imagine how Clifford Chance, Freshfields or Linklaters can meaningfully respond to this, a deal which would place A&O on the trajectory to becoming the world’s top UK-based law firm.

While there is clearly much to be done in terms of financial due diligence and the ironing out of issues relating to Shearman’s pension liabilities, time will be of the essence. A long courtship never works, so Dejonghe and Hakki would be well advised to work quickly on getting buy-in from rainmakers and locking them in as soon as possible, while not dragging their feet on the vote. Once the stars are aligned, the rest will inevitably fall into place.

A merger of two historic brands does not create a market leader overnight, but it is heartening to see that Dejonghe and Hakki are addressing the problems posed by market forces with the only viable solution. Let’s hope it works this time around.

Legal Business

Breaking: Allen & Overy and Shearman & Sterling announce merger

In what the firms describe as ‘the first fully integrated global elite law firm’ Allen & Overy and Shearman & Sterling today (21 May) announced a planned merger to create a ‘unique global law firm’ named Allen Overy Shearman Sterling – A&O Shearman for short.

In a statement, the firms said: ‘This merger will combine two of the world’s most prestigious law firms, leaders in their respective markets, to create an integrated global elite firm.

‘Together A&O Shearman will have  3,900 lawyers and 800 Partners across 49 offices. Allen & Overy and Shearman & Sterling have 250 years of combined experience and some of the greatest legal talent in the world. A&O Shearman will be the only global firm with US law, English law, and local law capabilities in equal measure. This merger is driven by clients’ needs for a seamless global offering of the highest quality and depth to support them in navigating an increasingly complex legal, regulatory, and geopolitical environment.

‘Allen & Overy and Shearman & Sterling are complementary with distinct market leadership, and between them they have huge strength in the US, UK, and markets all across the globe. This merger will transform their offering to clients: Shearman & Sterling will gain access to a dramatically expanded ‘rest of the world’ offering across practice areas, and Allen & Overy will benefit from increased board-level recognition and expanded access to a corporate client base in the US. The combined firm will be perfectly positioned to capitalise on global macro trends including energy transition, technology, and private capital.’

Wim Dejonghe, senior partner at Allen & Overy, said: ‘This combination of two great firms is such an exciting step for us. Both firms have a history of excellence, and together we think A&O Shearman will be a firm unlike any other in the world. We have listened to our clients and their requests for the highest quality advice to help navigate the demands they face, and to do so in an integrated and globally consistent way. We, A&O Shearman, will do this by accelerating our ability to bring the best of both firms, regardless of geography.

‘Shearman & Sterling is an incredible group of legal minds; a firm built on integrity and excellence, founded like us in a premier global financial capital and with an extraordinary group of longstanding clients. What excites me about this merger is the complementary cultures of our two firms. We have striking similarities across the board, and I believe we are going to be wonderful partners to one another on this journey.’

Adam Hakki, senior partner at Shearman & Sterling, said: ‘Client need for global elite firms has never been greater. They are calling for integrated global legal solutions and advice: merging with Allen & Overy will dramatically accelerate our ability to meet their needs in an increasingly complex environment. Allen & Overy is an outstanding firm whose work we have long admired and thought of as a kindred spirit. We have both always placed great emphasis on attracting and retaining top talent, were early to globalise, and are relentlessly focused on quality, excellence, and collaboration.

‘This is truly a game-changing moment for both firms that will create an unparalleled offering for our clients. It is also a fantastic opportunity for our people to be part of a transformative transaction and an institution of such significance, and we look forward to recruiting even more stellar talent in the coming years.’

Lazard is serving as financial adviser and Simpson Thacher & Bartlett is serving as legal counsel to A&O,  while Davis Polk & Wardwell is advising Shearman.

The proposed merger is subject to customary closing conditions, including a vote of the partners of each of the respective firms.

More detail can be found on, a site set up by the firms.

Further analysis to follow in the coming days.