Hunton & Williams and Andrews Kurth explore merger

Hunton & Williams and Andrews Kurth Kenyon are in merger talks, two sources have told the New York Law Journal.

While it is not clear how far the talks have progressed, a merger vote is not imminently expected, the sources said.

Hunton has in recent years held talks with Addleshaw Goddard over a tie-up, while Andrews Kurth has also been on the prowl for a combination, even after acquiring intellectual property boutique Kenyon & Kenyon last year.

Andrews Kurth, which has nearly 400 lawyers, has also spoken with other law firms, but the talks with 660-lawyer Hunton appear to be more serious, sources said.

Both US firms have offices in London. Hunton has about 20 lawyers in the City, including seven partners, according to its website. The firm significantly downsized in London about six years ago, when a number of corporate partners left, leaving the office to focus primarily on data protection and banking and finance.

Andrews Kurth, meanwhile, has a five-partner London base led by arbitration partner Melanie Willems, who joined from Chadbourne & Parke in 2013.

Some of Hunton and Andrews Kurth’s key financial metrics are similar. Profits per equity partner are $1.26m at Andrews Kurth and $1.1m at Hunton, while revenue per lawyer is $820,000 at Hunton and $885,000 at Andrews Kurth.

Revenue at Hunton, which placed 63rd in the most recent Am Law 100 rankings, rose 2.5% to $541m in 2016, while the 111th-ranked Andrews Kurth saw turnover fall 2.7% to $289m.

Both firms have been hit by a series of partner defections this year. In June, a team of Hunton competition lawyers, including five partners, left to join Shearman & Sterling in Washington DC.

Andrews Kurth spokeswoman Ashley Nelly said the firm’s managing partner, Bob Jewell, was not available to comment, while Buck declined to comment about his plans. Hunton spokeswoman Eleanor Kerlow said the firm had no comment.

Addleshaws’ merger discussions with Hunton, which began in 2015, are now thought to be very unlikely to come to fruition, with one former Addleshaws partner describing the talks as “very, very cold now”.