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Simmons & Simmons broke off merger discussions with Watson Farley & Williams last Tuesday (21 May), confirming reports that the plans were being opposed by a corporate contingent
However, as revealed by thelawyer.com/lawyernews, the decision was by mutual agreement and neither firm had drawn up formal plans or taken proposals to the partnership vote stage. Both firms confirmed the merger talks at the end of January, following the announcement that Watson Farley was losing its Paris office to US firm Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe. The Paris departures will strip Watson Farley of key relationships with some of its largest corporate clients, including Vivendi and Renault, which would not have been popular with Simmons' corporate partners. It is also understood that the merger was hindered by differences in culture. A source close to the firm said that, while Watson Farley is a relatively modern firm, Simmons is far more traditional. "Watson Farley is a very transparent business and people know what's going on. Simmons is more of a City firm and has a much more old-fashioned style," said the source. Last year, Watson Farley talked to Hunton & Williams and Squire Sanders & Dempsey and both sets of talks fell through for the same reason. The source said that merger is still a strong possibility, although he claims that there are no current talks with any other firms. Watson Farley has a high-profile asset finance practice and has increased its turnover by 5 per cent on last year for the financial year ending April 2002. However, the source said: "We're a business that's very well run, which can make a merger difficult."