US giant Latham & Watkins plots merger with City firm

The fourth largest US law firm, Latham & Watkins, is looking to merge with a London firm – and Linklaters is being mooted as a possible partner.

City firm Linklaters has met with partners from the Los Angeles-based US giant, which visited London on a factfinding mission. Latham & Watkins has 1,000 lawyers and a turnover of $502m.

Linklaters' managing partner Terence Kyle admits partners from Latham & Watkins visited his firm earlier in the year, but says they are not in merger talks.

He says: “Just because two or three partners from Latham & Watkins made a visit around the leading London firms, everyone has got excited.” He adds that Linklaters plans to expand in the US without joining a US firm.

But a source at a top five City firm says a Linklaters transatlantic merger was discussed, and adds: “It was prompted by the merger of Clifford Chance and Rogers & Wells.”

Kyle confirms the meeting was held by tax partner Tony Angel and senior partner Charles Allen-Jones, but protests it was a general annual staff meeting and not a discussion of a possible merger by partners. He adds it was planned before Clifford Chance's merger.

Latham & Watkins currently has offices across the US and in London, Moscow, Singapore, Tokyo and Hong Kong.

The firm was in talks with the Rogers & Wells' Paris office, which is breaking away, but they fell through last month, as revealed in The Lawyer (28 June).

Latham & Watkins refused to be drawn on the issue.