Covingtons tie-up boosts City practice

US firms Covington & Burling and Howard Smith & Levin have merged to form a 400-lawyer firm, to be called Covington & Burling.

The union ends rumours that Covington & Burling, which has a dual capability office in London, was about to merge with US firm Wachtell Lipton Rosen & Katz.

Head of corporate at Covingtons' London office Hilary Prescott says the merger will give the firm's UK practice access to US capital markets work.

Philip Howard of Howard Smith, who will be vice-president of the new firm, says Covingtons' London office will strengthen the firm's practice: “We have a number of British clients [and] we have a significant cross-Atlantic practice that is harder to do when you are in New York. It will be easier to do with Hilary and her team in London.”

Howard Smith has a close relationship with Allen & Overy on US tax matters. Howard says he does not expect this to be threatened by his firm gaining a London office.