Pinsent Curtis is in merger negotiations with the Paris office of German practice Schurmann & Partners.
Pinsents had been in talks to merge with the entire Schurmanns operation. But the firm lost out in September when US-based Coudert Brothers stepped in and announced it was close to finalising a deal with the Frankfurt-based practice.
A source close to Pinsents confirms talks with Schurmanns' Paris office are on-going. If the merger goes ahead the Paris team will break away from Schurmanns.
The source indicates the firm will then press on with its European expansion plans. It has also not ruled out finding another German practice to merge with should the current negotiations go through. It is thought the deal will be finalised by the end of this year.
Pinsents has offices in London, Birmingham and Leeds but its only European presence is a nominal Brussels operation manned by one lawyer. It has, however, worked closely with other European firms in the past, including Schurmanns.
It recently underwent an internal re-organisation to strengthen its position within the UK as a national, as opposed to regional, practice (The Lawyer, 18 October).
Schurmanns has 150 lawyers worldwide, 40 of whom are partners. The practice has six offices in Germany, including its head office in Frankfurt. It also has operations in Brussels, Milan, Stockholm, Prague and New York. It does not have a London presence. The Paris office has seven lawyers, four of whom are partners.
Couderts already has a German presence in Berlin and Frankfurt as well as an office in Paris. It recently announced its merger with Belgian practice Coppens Van Ommeslaghe & Faures.
A Pinsents spokesman refuses to confirm or deny the existence of the talks.
Both Couderts and the Frankfurt office of Schurmanns refuse to comment and the Paris office was unavailable for comment.
Speculating on the Paris office's decision not to merge with Couderts, a German lawyer comments: "One of the problems with merging with a US firm is that they have a completely different covenance and profit structure.
"Maybe the Paris office was not offered an attractive proposition."
A senior UK lawyer believes it is a good move for Pinsents. "There is sense in it - our Paris office is extremely busy. Brussels is good in terms of getting a handle on new legislation but not in terms of fees," he says.