Bingham merges with DC telecoms powerhouse

Bingham McCutchen is to complete its sixth merger in nine years, taking over Washington DC-based telecommunications specialist Swidler Berlin.

The 850-lawyer firm announced today that is has signed a letter of intent to merge with Swidler by the end of the first quarter of 2006.

The merger is subject to due diligence, conflict review, the execution of a definitive agreement and the approval of the firms’ respective partners.

The combined firm, which will operate under the Bingham McCutchen name, will total nearly 1000 lawyers and boast estimated annual billings of more than $700m.

The majority of Swidler’s 140-lawyers lawyers are located in Washington DC, where Bingham currently only has 55 lawyers. The merger would make Washington Bingham’s second-largest office. Swidler also has a small presence in New York City, which was devastated by a 27-partner raid by Dechert in January.

A spokesman for Bingham said the merger would also enhance the firms telecommunications, media and technology; government affairs; and real estate and structured finance practices.

Chairman of Bingham Jay Zimmerman said: “This merger will give us a stronger presence in Washington, D.C. — an area of particular strategic importance to the firm — and further enhance our national platform. Based upon our discussions to date, we are optimistic about bringing this transaction to completion.”

A merger will be Bingham’s sixth since 1997, including the 2002 merger of 500-lawyer Bingham Dana with 300-lawyer McCutchen, Doyle, Brown & Enersen, which created Bingham McCutchen.

The firm also merged with Los Angeles-based Riordan & McKinzie in 2003; mid-sized New York firm Richards & O’Neil in 2001; financial restructuring and insolvency specialist Hebb & Gitlin in 1999; and the Japanese practice of Marks & Murase in 1997.