Dentons sets sights on Squire Sanders' merger target Patton Boggs

Dentons has muscled in on merger talks between Squire Sanders and Patton Boggs, confirming that it has made an offer to combine with the Washington DC lobbying specialists.

Dentons global chief executive Elliott Portnoy (pictured) confirmed to Legal Week in an email that the international firm had made “a serious overture” to Patton Boggs, which has suffered a number of partner departures in recent months.

“We can confirm that Dentons has made a serious overture to Patton Boggs’ leadership about a combination to form a new firm together,” said a Dentons spokesperson. “We hold Patton Boggs and its lawyers and professionals in high regard, and our interest in conversations between our firms and partners remains high.”

Patton Boggs could not immediately be reached for comment, while Squire Sanders declined to comment beyond acknowledging that its talks with Patton Boggs are still ongoing.

Dentons declined to comment on whether it had made the offer after Squire Sanders and Patton Boggs confirmed their merger talks in February.

However, one source close to the process suggested that talks between Dentons and Patton Boggs “were not currently active”, and that the move by the larger firm was “tactical”.

Portnoy did not respond to whether Dentons would pursue a merger if the Patton Boggs-Squire Sanders talks fall through.

If that tie-up were to go ahead, it would create a 1700-lawyer firm with 45 offices across 22 countries and combined revenues of more than $1bn (£600m).

Squire Sanders, which is structured as a Swiss verein, combined with legacy UK firm Hammonds on 1 January 2011, and counts 39 offices across 19 countries. Patton Boggs meanwhile has a much smaller footprint, with around 360 lawyers across five US and four Middle East offices. 

It has had a difficult time recently, announcing the closure of its New Jersey base earlier this year, reporting a 12% drop in revenue for 2013 and seeing rapidly contracting lawyer numbers.

The firm is also facing a major lawsuit from Chevron, which alleges lawyers at Patton Boggs committed fraud during a long-running dispute over the company’s legacy drilling activity in Ecuador.

In November, merger discussions between Dentons and another Washington firm, McKenna Long & Aldridge, collapsed after partners at McKenna voted against the tie-up.