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European 58-partner firm Salans Hertzfeld & Heilbronn is to merge with New York's 28-partner Christy & Viener.
The merger will take place on 1 January 1999 creating a practice with 86 partners and 350 fee-earners.
It is the third merger in 12 months for Salans Hertzfeld - this month it took over 13-lawyer Paris-based IT boutique FG Associes and last October merged with 50-lawyer Holborn firm Harris Rosenblatt & Kramer.
Christy & Viener, known particularly for its litigation practice, is said to have been in talks with Lovell White Durrant last year, but feared being swallowed up by a major UK firm. The firm's client list features financial institutions as well as technology, energy, utility, media and entertainment companies. Salans is particularly known for its strong CIS practice and has offices in Russia, the Ukraine and Kazakhstan.
Christy & Viener is understood to have been particularly attracted to this element of its practice, despite the Russian crisis. Salans will close down its two-partner New York office and the partners will relocate to C&V's offices.
London Salans spokesman Bob Starr said the merger with C&V would provide a genuine partnership. "We're one multinational partnership, not a marketing venture that's a half-way step to a merger," he said, emphasising that the combined firms would not be run as separate profit centres.
Starr said the logic for the deal from Salans' point of view was to broaden the firm from being a European to a mid-size international firm. "We're European based and very far from our North American clients. We're virtually unknown in America," he said.
One observer in New York said C&V was regarded very highly in New York. She was unable to see the synergy with Salans.
The new firm will be called Salans Hertzfeld & Heilbronn outside the US and Salans Hertzfeld Heilbronn Christy & Viener in New York.