Richards Butler has entered merger talks with New York firm Proskauer Rose after several years of looking for a US tie-up.
The City firm has made transatlantic capability a strategic priority as part of its repositioning as a disputes specialist.
Proskauer, which is also a specialist litigation practice, is one of the few major New York firms without a presence in the UK, having closed its small London office in the early 1980s.
“We’ve looked at London for the last five years,” admitted Proskauer chairman Alan Jaffe, adding that the firm has talked to a number of UK candidates about the possibility of a merger.
One source close to the talks said that Proskauer partners now feel that their firm needs more credibility internationally.
Proskauer was ranked 58th in The Lawyer Global 100, with gross revenues of £223.4m in 2003. A merger between the two firms would shoot the combined entity into the top 30. It would create a transatlantic firm with around 1,000 lawyers and with revenues of more than £300m.
Around 55 per cent of the New York firm’s work is litigation and approximately 45 per cent transactional – a split which almost exactly mirrors Richards Butler’s 53 per cent litigation, 47 per cent corporate. Proskauer has a strong IP practice and a mid-market corporate practice. Complementary sector strengths include media and entertainment and financial services.
The two firms also have similar revenues per partner of £1,582,000 at Richards Butler and £1,451,000 at Proskauer, but the US firm’s high profitability could prove a stumbling block.
Proskauer’s only office outside the US is in Paris, where the firm services large French companies such as Alcatel and TotalFinaElf on US law.
Richards Butler managing partner Roger Parker declined to comment on the talks, stating only that “we’re not in negotiations”.