Band of US firms ready for UK tie-up as SJB/Proskauer talks continue

Reed Smith, K&L Gates and Bryan Cave are among a group of US-based practices that would actively consider a merger with a London firm, according to Legal Week research.

The finding is contained in Legal Week‘s annual international firms in London focus, which includes submissions from most major foreign practices operating in the Square Mile.

Others firms that said they would ‘possibly consider’ a union with a London law firm included Mayer Brown, White & Case, Sidley Austin, Chadbourne & Parke, Hunton & Williams, Edwards Angell Palmer & Dodge and Salans. Offshore leader Appleby also said it would consider a City tie-up.

The results come amid mounting attention on the prospects for US/UK unions in the wake of the May launch of Hogan Lovells and this month’s vote backing the merger between Denton Wilde Sapte and Chicago’s Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal (see page 3).

Reed Smith London head Roger Parker (pictured) commented: “The mergers that we have seen so far are a recognition of the centralisation we are seeing in the purchase of legal services by major corporates. This is a process that we expect to see becoming more common.”

The survey also found international firms are stepping up their UK growth plans, with 92% of respondents expecting to grow their London practices over the coming year.

The findings come as SJ Berwin partners were briefed at the firm’s annual partnership meeting last weekend (12-13 June) on the firm’s ongoing merger discussions with New York’s Proskauer Rose.

Partners described briefing on the talks as “useful”. It is believed to be the first detailed report SJ Berwin has given its wider partnership since entering into merger talks with Proskauer earlier this year.