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Mayer Brown Rowe & Maw goes for UK option as US LLP ruled out; A&O to follow
Mayer Brown Rowe & Maw (MBRM) is about to become the largest law firm to convert to a UK limited-liability partnership (LLP), while the US operation of the combined firm faces delay because of Bar rules in the state of Illinois. Magic circle firms are set to follow MBRM's initiative. Allen & Overy (A&O) has now set up a taskforce to deal with issues including tax structures in Germany; and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer is also understood to be investigating converting to LLP status. A source at A&O said: "We're preparing for the future on that. It's happening and we will do it." A UK committee is now in the advanced stages of thrashing out the terms for MBRM's conversion in November this year, ahead of the US, where the firm is headquartered in Chicago. MBRM's own partnership expert Richard Linsell is playing a key role on the LLP committee. It is chaired by corporate and venture capital partner Stephen Bottomley and includes finance specialist Stephen Walsh, corporate partner Andrew Copley, partnership secretary John Watson and director of finance Jon Sedgwick. As reported in The Lawyer (4 February), Rowe & Maw and Mayer Brown & Platt are unable to merge fully until the State of Illinois gives the go-ahead for LLPs. But legacy partners at Rowe & Maw, which subsumed Mayer Brown's London office, are unwilling to wait for pro-LLP lobbying to succeed in Illinois, and are pushing forward with their own conversion in the UK. Linsell said: "The great attraction is that we can keep our partnership structure while getting the benefits of limited liability." Linsell is drawing on his experience advising Kemp Little on its conversion to an LLP. "It's the scale of the operation here that's different. We're a more complex business," he said. It is understood that no final decision has been made on whether the UK would become part of a US LLP if the Illinois rules change or if MBRM pursues New York LLP status. The issue of where MBRM's European offices will sit has also to be resolved.