Andersens continues search as it admits failure of link-up

Arthur Andersen has pledged to continue the search for a top City law firm merger partner following a public admission of the failure of talks with Simmons & Simmons.

The Lawyer first revealed speculation that Simmons was in talks with Andersens in May but neither side would confirm it until last week, when Simmons announced that it had been in talks “to join Arthur Andersens international legal network” but had decided not to go ahead.

The announcement, which was also made internally to Simmons staff, was forced by an article in The Sunday Times on 9 November, which said that a proposal had already been submitted to Andersens' Chicago head office.

Both sides said they were in “preliminary discussions” only.

One source close to the firm said Simmons had ruled out a link shortly after Andersens linked up with the Spanish firm J & A Garrigues.

The initial approach was made by Antonio Garrigues, Garrigues's senior partner. Simmons was a fellow member of the Club d'Abogados with Garrigues. Garrigues has now left the club.

Although Simmons is the least profitable of the top ten firms, a significant number of partners would have been unlikely to approve a merger, as they would effectively have become salaried partners with little influence.

The announcement is a public relations set-back for all the big Six accountancy firms planning to capture law firms.

But Simmons refuses to rule out alliances with Big Six firms in the future. Alberto Terol, head of Andersens' global legal network, said: “The intention is to conclude an association with a reputable firm in the UK.