Baker & McKenzie has found a Spanish firm to merge with in the continuing battle by UK and international law firms to find suitable European alliances.
Nigel Carrington, chairman of Baker & McKenzie's European and Middle East Council, says: “We are in an advanced state of negotiations with a view to merging with Jimenez de Parga.”
Baker & McKenzie already has 50 lawyers in Barcelona and Madrid.
A successful merger with the 20-lawyer Catalan firm would put them on a par, at least in terms of size, with the 70-lawyer Spanish presence of Clifford Chance.
Francisco Cantos, a partner at the Madrid office of Freshfields, which absorbed Hervada & Klingenberg last June, says: “Spanish firms which merge with international firms will gain a clear advantage over their domestic rivals.”
Clifford Chance's European managing partner Peter Cornell says: “It could be a very good move for Baker & McKenzie, giving it critical mass, especially in the distinct market of Barcelona where you need good Catalan lawyers.”
“Spanish firms, as in a number of jurisdictions, have recognised the importance of being part of an international network, but there is a finite number of suitable Spanish firms of a sufficient size with which to forge an alliance,” he adds.
Time is running out for firms like Linklaters & Alliance, which suffered a setback when Uria & Menendez pulled out of the proposed alliance.
Clifford Chance had entered merger negotiations with Raymon Mullerat of Mullerat & Roca, but a merger was rejected. Mullerat later chose to take his team into an alliance with accountancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers.
“I would look again tomorrow both in Spain and in the rest of Europe for a merger partner,” says Cornell.