Diligent marriages cause less heartache

The problems being faced by CMS Cameron McKenna as it pushes for full integration are symptomatic of many firms that want to merge with their European alliances.

The problem, it would seem, is due diligence, or rather the lack of it. With the first European alliances there was no need to conduct a concentrated bout of due diligence because the alliances were intended merely to be a loose network of working relationships.

Therefore wildly different profitability was simply not an issue – but it is now and could still wreck a number of marriages.

Firms that are entering Europe late in the day – such as DLA and Osborne Clarke – may actually have an advantage over those that have an established European alliance.

Not only can they learn from the mistakes of their rivals, but they also have a single goal in mind – full-on merger and complete integration. Due diligence will then, of course, be handled at the start of the relationship rather than when it is more difficult to escape the other's clutches.

And with the ultimate goal of a US marriage, firms are aware that European integration will inevitably drag partnership profits down, making them less than attractive to potential brides.

Preserving solid profitability through organic growth rather than merger may yet be the best route.

Firms which consider European expansion should follow the same advice they give their clients and carry out due diligence instead of relentlessly pursuing the urge to merge.