Proskauer hitch fails to dent SJ Berwin’s American dream

SJ Berwin remains committed to securing a transatlantic merger as the dust settles on its failed attempt to pair up with Proskauer Rose last year.

Protracted talks with the US firm fell through last November due to a mismatch of profit figures. But last week the UK firm announced a 40 per cent increase in average profit per equity partner (PEP) and a 5 per cent revenue hike – figures that show a strong recovery following two years of decreases in turnover. In 2008-09 the firm’s PEP declined by 50 per cent.

SJ Berwin managing partner Rob Day said a merger was the only way to branch out into the US, adding that he frequently receives enquiries from potential suitors.
The issue was on the agenda at a recent weekend conference of partners.

Day told The Lawyer: “We still think the direction of travel of law as a whole is towards strong multinational businesses. Joining strength in Europe with strength in the US makes sense. Accessing the US is a merger-only option. We reviewed that at the partner weekend. We’ve got to get it right and at the right time.”

Day added that the firm will avoid jumping into a deal before it has had time for its financials to stabilise.

“The Proskauer discussions concluded in November,” he said, “and since then we’ve had a great set of results. The environment feels different now. Our ­feeling is that we still need a period of ­stabilisation. We’d like to [merge with a US firm], but we’re not going to go straight back into it.”