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Governance committees recommend the deal; vote set for end of this month
The governance committees at Ashurst Morris Crisp and Fried Frank Harris Shriver & Jacobson have voted to recommend a merger of the firms to its partners, paving the way for a March ballot.
It is understood that Fried Frank's 14-member committee was the first to vote in the week beginning 10 February. Ashursts followed a week later when its 13-strong board agreed to approach its 142 partners on the tie-up.
Sources described the meetings as "very positive". Clients of both firms, such as Goldman Sachs, are said to be in favour of a merger.
The only details still to be ironed out mainly concern compensation. It is understood that Ashursts will migrate to Fried Frank's system of having 'super-point' partners. The majority of partners will still follow a lockstep system.
Currently, Fried Frank has two levels of super-points status on which 11 of the firm's big billers are compensated.
However, it is hoped that towards the end of a five-year period the tranche of extra points, while not completely eliminated, will be much slimmer than at present.
Due to the final talks over compensation, the partner vote has been delayed slightly and will take place towards the end of March instead of the beginning of this month.
In a sure sign that both firms are moving quickly on the merger, Valerie Ford Jacob, Fried Frank's highly-rated head of capital markets, was last week named co-managing partner.
Ford Jacob is known to have worked closely with Ashursts' management on the merger for some time and is an advocate of European expansion.
She will share her new role with corporate partner Paul Reinstein, who is also the chair of the New York office's management committee.
Both partners will take over the reins from Peter Cobb and Michael Rauch.
Both Ashursts and Fried Frank declined to comment.