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Mayer Brown Rowe & Maw has just met its November target to become a UK limited-liability partnership (LLP), but has opted to exclude its European offices because of tax issues
UK and Brussels partners will become members of the new LLP, while their colleagues in the US await final approval for LLPs from the State of Illinois.
A change to the Illinois rules is imminent. However, when the green light is given, Mayer Brown will comprise two distinct LLPs, rather than becoming a US LLP like Clifford Chance. This will avoid the expense of harmonising the tax year-end of the UK arm with that of the US.
The status of the Mayer Brown & Platt deal with Rowe & Maw will be left intact as a combination rather than a merger. The UK LLP will become a partner within the US partnership.
Senior partner Stuart James said: "This actually helps clarify the structure."
In the UK, a committee made up of Stephen Walsh, Andrew Copley, Stephen Bottomley and Richard Linsell looked at several options. They have made the most of the fact that they were not weighed down by European baggage prior to the combination.
In a UK LLP, partners in a number of European offices would be taxed at the local rate, which is often higher than that of the UK, but Mayer Brown's French and German partners will continue to operate out of the US partnership.
The committee said the move would prompt the firm to manage client relationships better in a technical sense.
"It gives us the opportunity, frankly, to do an audit to make sure we have every client on up-to-date terms of engagement," said James.
James also said the firm's bank, the Royal Bank of Scotland, was happy with the change. But Mayer Brown is still in discussions with its landlords about releasing individual partners from the firm's property leases in favour of naming the LLP.