US firms Kirkpatrick & Lockhart Nicholson Graham and Preston Gates & Ellis are in merger talks that, if successful, would see the creation of a 1,400-lawyer firm.

The addition of Preston Gates would also give Kirkpatrick a significant foothold in the Asian legal market, until now a gap in its coverage and a stated ambition at the time of the US firm’s merger with the UK’s Nicholson Graham & Jones in January 2005.

Seattle-based Preston Gates, which has around 420 lawyers, has offices in Hong Kong, Taipei and Beijing along with eight sites in the US.

Kirkpatrick has made no secret of its expansionist ambitions. Prior to beginning talks with Preston Gates in July, it spent several months in merger discussions with Salans – revealed by The Lawyer earlier this month (The Lawyer, 11 September).

The two firms are anticipating closing the deal before the end of the current financial year in December. Both parties confirmed the the talks in an official statement issued yesterday (Monday 25 September).

The combined revenues of the merged firm would be around $650m (£343m). Average profitability at Kirkpatrick is considerably higher than at Preston Gates, at £414,000 ($725,000) and £185,000 ($350,000) respectively.