Heller chairman coy over merger rumours

The chairman of US firm Heller Ehrman has refused to rule out a merger after respected litigator Paul Alexander became the seventeenth partner to leave the firm this year.

The firm lost 25 partners in 2007 and has lost 17 this year after Alexander quit to join Howrey in Palo Alto.

Heller chairman Matt Larrabee told The Lawyer that a merger was one of the options his firm was considering, but maintained that no decision had been taken at this point in time.

“I can categorically deny that Heller has concluded we must merge,” Larrabee said. “We did discuss our strategic plans at our partners retreat last month and the fact that, under some circumstances, a merger may or may not be a tactic. But I didn’t utter the name of any particular firm at that time, other than Heller.”

The rumour mill has put Heller in talks with a number of firms and Larrabee’s refusal to deny that Heller is currently in merger talks will only add to the widely held belief that the firm is nearing a deal.

Big names to have left the firm include real estate co-chair Peter Benudiz to Milbank Tweed Hadley & McCloy, and former managing partner Richard Martin and employment co-chair Patricia Gillette to Orrick. These three partners alone are thought to have generated around $20m (£10.12m) of business.