The pursuit of a number of transatlantic law firm combinations has received much publicity recently.
In order to assess the issues and challenges that will be faced, the following 20 points should be considered before a firm’s management boards the plane to JFK.
1. Before you buy your ticket, sit down with your partners and come up with 10 really good reasons why you want to do this.
2. If you really need a US capacity, why not just hire some US lawyers?
3. When you look at your client list, how many of them really care whether you have the capacity to offer legal services in New York and Cincinnati?
4. And when you look at the US firm’s client list, how many of them really care about your ability to offer legal services in London and Paris?
5. Haven’t you got enough to do, bedding down those European acquisitions before you try and do something really serious?
6. Remember, you are a fiduciary for your partners, not your own job.
7. You might think it is a merger but those Americans sure like to put their stamp on things.
8. Is your PR adviser ready with your press release when discussions collapse?
9. Investment banks seem to be able to retain confidentiality for their corporate clients. What makes law firms so leaky?
10. Small is beautiful. If you really are small and perfectly formed why bother with all this?
11. If your US counterpart has yet to make a European appearance, what makes it think it can suddenly throw all that business your way?
12. Which version of the spellchecker will you adopt, English or US?
13. Having set the hare running, what do you do when you discover there is no deal to be done?
14. How are you going to explain to your partners that compensation can go down as well as up?
15. What shall we call ourselves? Those colonial whippersnappers can take a hike if they think we are going to drop 12 generations of fine legal tradition.
16. How can you find a way to stop yourself referring to them as colonial whippersnappers?
17. Does that nice consultant really have your best interests truly at mind?
18. How are you going to convince your litigators that it is good for them?
19. Your assistants will certainly be more than attracted to the US salary structure.
20. When you do not do a deal and your weaknesses are known, what happens to your best talent?
Ian Coles is London managing partner at Mayer Brown & Platt.