Kirkpatrick targets Preston Gates merger

US firms Kirkpatrick & Lockhart Nicholson Graham and Preston Gates & Ellis are in merger talks that, if successful, would see the creation of a 1,400-lawyer firm.

The addition of Preston Gates would also give Kirkpatrick a significant foothold in the Asian legal market, until now a gap in its coverage and a stated ambition at the time of the US firm’s merger with the UK’s Nicholson Graham & Jones in January 2005.

The talks follow the collapse over the summer of Kirkpatrick’s merger discussions with Salans, which would have given it a network of Central and Eastern European offices. Kirkpatrick entered talks with the Anglo-French outfit earlier this year, but the discussions collapsed during the summer. However, it has now emerged that the firm was already seeking new opportunities in Asia and on the US West Coast.

As reported by The Lawyer (11 September), Kirkpatrick chairman and managing partner Peter Kalis admitted that his firm was “in the market to investigate opportunities”, adding that “more often than not they don’t pan out”.

Its latest talks, with Seattle-based Preston Gates, shows all the signs of panning out. The two firms began talks in July and are anticipating closing the deal before the end of the current financial year in December. Both parties confirmed the talks in an official statement issued last Monday (25 September).

Preston Gates has around 420 lawyers, with offices in Hong Kong, Taipei and Beijing, along with eight sites in the US.

The combined revenue of the merged firm would be around $650m (£342.77m). Average profitability at Kirkpartick, at £414,000, is considerably higher than Preston Gates’ £185,000.

Neither firm would make any further comment to that contained in the joint statement. Kirkpatrick’s Kalis and Preston Gates managing partner Karen Glover said in the release: “Our offices and practices across the United States, and in London, Hong Kong, Taipei and Beijing, and the combined talent of our lawyers, create an opportunity we are
eager to explore for our clients and our respective firms.”