DLA Piper heads queue set to plunder remains

DLA Piper Rudnick Gray Cary looks set to be the first to pounce on Courdert’s corpse. The world’s fastest-growing firm is in advanced talks with Coudert Brothers’ German and Belgian offices and has also had numerous discussions with partners throughout Asia.

Baker & McKenzie is still dilly-dallying, despite doing extensive due diligence on Coudert’s 19-office network. Bakers remains the favourite to take Coudert’s New York and Washington DC offices, but is unlikely to want, or to get, either office intact, as other firms look to pick up the best partners. Winston & Strawn has already taken partners in New York and San Francisco and has indicated that it is likely to take more.

The DC office has just six partners left. Three belong to the firm’s Russian practice and Orrick is likely to fight with LeBoeuf Lamb Greene & MacRae for the remaining partners. As one of the few international firms with a St Petersburg presence, Bakers is the favourite to scoop some quality associates, as well as trophy client Ilim Pulp, a Russian paper company.

The French office is most likely to break up, with the partners going to various firms, but the firm has also discussed relaunching as an independent boutique.

Following the announcement of the break-up, Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman revealed that it had applied for a licence to operate in Shanghai, fuelling speculation that it will take Coudert’s one-partner office there. Pillsbury head of China Greg Pickrell joined from Coudert in March.

The future of the one-partner Tokyo office is also undecided. However, it wants to join another US firm as a team.

The spiralling Australian branch was the first to warn staff openly that they have until the end of the year to find new jobs. Its 15 partners look likely to scatter among the local market, although a team of property partners from Sydney has entered talks with Australian firm Phillips Fox.

Coudert’s associated firms in Budapest, Jakarta, Mexico City, Milan, Prague, Rome and Stockholm remain completely independent and are free to pursue alternatives.