Bingham completes sixth merger in nine years

Bingham McCutchen has finalised its merger with Washington DC-based Swidler Berlin a month earlier than expected.

The merger, which was first announced in December (, 8 December 2005), creates a 950-lawyer, 11 office firm with annual revenue of more than $700m.

It is Bingham’s sixth merger in nine years, including the 2002 merger of 500-lawyer Bingham Dana with 300-lawyer McCutchen Doyle Brown & Enersen, which created Bingham McCutchen.

As part of the agreement the combined firm will be known as Bingham McCutchen, while Bingham’s chairman Jay Zimmerman retains his position within the combined firm.

Swidler’s managing partner Barry Direnfeld will meanwhile serve as co-head of the combined firm’s Washington DC office along with Bingham’s Washington DC office head Neil Sullivan.

Direnfeld and Swidler telecom specialist Andrew Lipman will also occupy two new seats on Bingham’s expanded 18-partner firm committee, which functions in a similar style to a board of directors.

The tie-up bolsters Bingham’s technology, media and telecoms, government, real estate and structured finance practices.

It also almost triples the size of Bingham’s DC headcount, adding 115 lawyers from Swidler to Bingham’s existing 60-lawyer team. The combination sees DC become the firm’s second largest office, and coincides with a move to new office space in DC’s central business district.

However, it also resulted in the departure of two of Swidler’s practice groups due to conflicts of interest. The 10-lawyer bankruptcy team left for Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe and the 12-lawyer insurance group joined Heller Erhman last month (February).

Bingham chairman Jay Zimmerman said the two firms had first discussed a merger three years ago but a tie-up had not been viable until Swidler’s practice areas were refocused.

These included the firm’s demerger from Shereff Friedman Hoffman & Goodman (which it formed a union with in 1998) in January, when the bulk of the firm’s New York practice left for Dechert, thwarting a merger attempt with Orrick.