Bakers, Mayer Brown and Orrick prowl round Heller

Baker & McKenzie, Mayer Brown and Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe are among the contenders to take large chunks of US firm Heller Ehrman, which announced plans to dissolve yesterday.


Bakers, <a class=Mayer Brown and Orrick prowl round Heller” />Baker & McKenzie, Mayer Brown and Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe are among the leading contenders to take large chunks of US firm Heller Ehrman, which announced plans to dissolve yesterday (September 25).

The three US firms are among a whole host which are negotiating with the various offices of Heller. Some firms are interested in taking numerous offices while others are just interested in one or in teams or individuals.

“We’re all over it,” said a partner at one of the firms, “But so is everybody.”

Bakers, which ended merger negotiations with Heller last month is particularly interested in boosting its US offices. Mayer Brown, which also pulled out of a full scale merger, is understood to be keen on the 75 lawyers in New York and the 200+ on the West Coast.

“We haven’t finished our analysis of the whole firm yet,” said the partner at one firm that is interested. “This will pan out over the weekend and early next week.”

The London office of Heller is very much aligned with the Venture Law Group (VLG), with its focus on corporate work in the technology sector. Cooley Godward Kronish has emerged as an early favourite to take the VLG group and has been interested in a London launch for some time.

Orrick knows Heller well through its shared knowledge of VLG, which was an independent firm set up by former Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati partner Craig Johnson in 1993. VLG serviced technology start-ups and venture capitalists in Silicon Valley. It had an alliance with Orrick whereby Orrick picked up the companies once they had become bigger.

VLG flourished during the 1990s but crashed with the dot.coms. Heller outbid Orrick and bought VLG but before long about 50 lawyers split and joined Orrick. Orrick rebranded its VLG partners as Orrick Emerging, while Heller’s continued to practise under the VLG banner.

Another former merger suitor Winston & Strawn has shown interest in selected practices while Morgan Lewis & Bockius is also thought to be keen on parts.

At the end of the last financial year Heller revenues were $491m, 138 equity partners and 611 lawyers but at least 50 partners have departed since the beginning of the year.