Orrick and Swidler Berlin set for merger as talks heat up

Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe is close to securing a merger with respected Washington firm Swidler Berlin Shereff Friedman.

It is understood that the talks are still taking place between both firms’ management, with partners yet to be informed of the details of the tie-up.

The combination would prove to be a good move for Orrick, as Swidler Berlin would bolster a number of key areas. These include telecoms, a specialism of Swidler Berlin’s Washington office, as well as government regulatory, which Orrick’s 50-lawyer DC office is focusing on after it recruited former president Bill Clinton’s special counsel Lanny Davis last year.

In New York, home to more than 70 Swidler Berlin lawyers, the practice includes equity capital markets, an area Orrick has been attempting to develop there for some time, and litigation.

Financially, both firms’ remuneration, at least in terms of average profits per partner (PPP), are consistent. Orrick reported PPP of $945,000 (£527,000) in 2003 compared to Swidler Berlin’s $940,000. In terms of turnover, Orrick outstrips Swidler Berlin with gross revenues in 2003 of $488m (£272m) compared with Swidler Berlin’s $158m (£88.1m). However, while Orrick’s climb in both gross revenue and PPP has been nothing less than meteoric over the past five years (see graph), Swidler Berlin has been less consistent.

In 2001, Swidler Berlin’s revenue rose by 8.5 per cent to $165m (£92m), while PPP fell by 2.3 per cent to $830,000 (£463,000). The following year, PPP recovered, up 4.2 per cent to $865,000 (£482,000) while gross revenue declined by 6.6 per cent to $154m (£85.9m).

Swidler Berlin’s revenue per lawyer has risen and fallen during the past five years and in 2003 it was heading upwards, rising by 10.8 per cent to $615,000 (£343,000). However, this was still lower than Orrick, which recorded flat revenue per lawyer at $700,000 (£390,000) for 2003.