Two London firms are competing to be the first UK practice to join the 420-lawyer European alliance BBLP.
Andre Moquet, a founding partner of French firm Moquet Borde & Associes, says that the alliance is now ready to expand across the Channel.
He says: “We have found two potential UK firms to form an alliance with.”
Moquet refuses to name them. Sources say Theodore Goddard is in contention, although a spokesman for the firm refuses to comment.
The alliance comprises European firms Moquet Borde; Beiten Burkhardt Mittl & Wegener in Germany; Pavia e Ansaldo in Italy; and Swiss firm Meyer Lustenberger & Partner.
Between them, they have offices across 12 countries.
Moquet says that when the alliance was set up in June, a UK partner was not viable.
He says: “We discussed the idea of an alliance with an English partner before BBLP was formed, but decided against it for the time being.
“We felt that English firms looked down their noses at us and we wanted to have an equal relationship.”
However, the alliance is now strong enough to take on an English firm.
The alliance has a governing body with one representative from each member firm. Juergen Burkhardt, one of the founding partners at 180-lawyer German firm Beiten Burkhardt, is head of BBLP. He is due for re-election next year.
Moquet Borde chose the alliance members based on their similar profit levels. Moquet says all potential partners must have similar profits to existing BBLP members.
The ultimate aim of the alliance is to merge its member firms.
When it was launched, BBLP announced its firms would merge by 2001, but now Moquet says the union may take slightly longer than that to organise.
No date has been set, but insiders say it may not take place until 2002.
The alliance is also looking for other partners. Beiten Burkhardt managing partner Jack Schiffer says the alliance is in talks with Austrian, Spanish and Scandinavian firms.