Berwin Leighton Paisner in transatlantic merger talks with US firm Bryan Cave

Berwin Leighton Paisner (BLP) is in advanced talks over a merger with US firm Bryan Cave, a deal that could create a 1,500-lawyer firm with combined revenues of about £730m.

If talks are successful, the merged firm would have 32 offices in 12 countries around the world. In a statement, the firms said the deal is subject to the resolution of conflict issues and approval by partners at both firms later this year.

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BLP boosted revenues by 7% last year to reach £272m, although profit per equity partner (PEP) fell by nearly 8% to £630,000. Meanwhile, Bryan Cave’s revenue slipped for the third year in a row during 2016, to $608m, but PEP rose by 7.5% to a new high of $865,000 (£650,000).

BLP managing partner Lisa Mayhew commented: “Our two firms share a strong commitment to innovation in the interests of our clients. We also have an unusually strong cultural fit, with a mutual focus on collaboration across our businesses in the interests of deep and lasting client relationships.

“It is encouraging for the potential firm that BLP and Bryan Cave both have this complementary heritage, but crucially also share the same ambitions for the future.”

Bryan Cave chair Therese Pritchard added: “If we combine, we will operate without regard to geographic boundaries. Our firm would be one of only a handful of global firms operating in a one-firm structure, with more than 500 lawyers in both the US and also internationally.”

Bryan Cave, which is based in St Louis, has 19 domestic offices across the US, alongside European bases in London, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Paris and an affiliated firm in Milan, as well as an Asian presence in Hong Kong and Shanghai.

BLP has a total of 14 bases across Europe, Asia and the Middle East. There are four locations where both firms have an office – London, Paris, Frankfurt and Hong Kong.

Last year, BLP held unsuccessful talks with US firm Greenberg Traurig about a tie-up that would have created a 2,500 lawyer firm with combined revenue of £1bn. The failure of the talks was attributed in some quarters to a clash of working cultures and vastly differing pay systems, although the firms insisted the decision was mutual.

In late 2015, Bryan Cave was reportedly in position to acquire struggling US firm Dickstein Shapiro, but the Washington DC-based firm instead pursued another deal with Blank Rome. Bryan Cave also held merger talks with US firm Squire Sanders & Dempsey (now Squire Patton Boggs) in 2006.

BLP has been reorganising aspects of its business in recent years, with its corporate practice refocused around supporting real estate and litigation clients in 2015, while earlier this year the firm completed a review of its global litigation and corporate risk practice.