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New York firm Baer Marks & Upham is being fought over by two larger US players looking for a presence in the city.
The 80-lawyer firm is strong in bankruptcy and telecoms work, and is understood to be in merger talks with Philadelphia's Duane Morris & Heckscher and Boston's Mintz Levin Cohn Ferris Glovsky and Popeo. The two national firms are keen to ramp up their presences in New York, and bankruptcy practices are in hot demand in the current economic climate. All three firms declined to comment on the plans, but a source close to the talks said that Duane Morris was currently in the due diligence stage of its discussions. The two partners leading discussions on behalf of Baer Marks are head of the bankruptcy practice Michael Blumenthal and head of telecoms Stanley Bloch, who is also managing partner of the firm. One recruiter in New York said: "The theory in New York is that in order to succeed here, you need a critical mass of between 100 and 150 lawyers. To achieve that through internal growth takes an incredibly long time, so firms are looking for merger partners. "The real prize in the bonnet of Baer Marks is the bankruptcy practice - Baer Marks bankruptcy is very good and very well regarded. Good quality bankruptcy lawyers in this market are as rare as hen's teeth."
"Good-quality bankruptcy lawyers in this market are as rare as hens' teeth"
The downturn in corporate work in the US at the moment means that firms are looking for opportunities to develop counter-cyclical insolvency teams. Baer Marks also boasts a strong corporate and commercial practice and a real estate group. The firm's clients include ABN Amro, the Bank of New York, General Electric Capital Corporation and Hilton Hotels. Duane Morris has 19 offices across the US and last year opened its doors in London when it merged with City firm Geisler & Laws. The firm is full service, but specialises in corporate and commercial work, property and litigation. Its big manufacturing clients include Intel and Filofax. It is one of the fastest-growing firms in the US, having opened seven offices there in 1999 and taken on 100 new lawyers. When Duane Morris launched in London, chairman Sheldon Bonovitz said the firm was hoping to move out of the US mid-tier within three years and double in size. Mintz Levin has six offices, in Boston, New Haven, New York, Reston, Washington DC and Los Angeles. The firm also boasts a strong telecoms practice.