Winston & Strawn tipped to merge with Whitman Breed

Chicago's Winston & Strawn and New York firm Whitman Breed Abbott & Morgan are in advanced merger talks, The Lawyer can reveal.

The merger would create an 850-plus lawyer firm and increase Winston Strawn's New York presence from about 145 lawyers to over 250.

The news will raise eyebrows in the US because the merger would give the new firm one of the three or four biggest branch offices in New York.

It would also enhance the Chicago firm's New York corporate and litigation practices and add a strong intellectual property practice.

The talks will have been eased by both firms' New York offices being based in Manhattan's Met Life building. The Lawyer understands that the merger is likely to be announced in the next two or three weeks.

A source close to the New York market says: “For Whitman Breed it would link it with a big national firm. And it would give Winston & Strawn a good corporate practice, with corporate finance, M&A, banking and new financial products, and it gets them into a really solid real estate practice.”

Whitman Breed was created from the merger of patrician M&A firms Whitman & Ransom and Breed Abbott & Morgan in 1994 in one of the few intra-New York mergers.

A source says the merger did not produce the intended increase in profitability as it was left behind by other New York firms' growth in the 1990s.

Whitman Breed has a small London office of three partners doing international company and commercial work. A source suggests the merged firm is likely to look for a 150-lawyer London firm in the future.

Robert Bostrom, Winston & Strawn's New York managing partner, declined to comment. Joint managing partners of Whitman Breed Kevin Walsh and Berg Setrakian were available for comment.