Morton: it’s US merger or bust for Freshfields

New senior partner kicks off merger hunt; will look outside New York; will tinker with lockstep

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer‘s new co-senior partner Guy Morton has put a transatlantic merger firmly back to the top of the firm’s agenda.

In his first interview since taking the helm at the start of the year, Morton told The Lawyer that he is aiming to achieve a US merger before the end of his five-year term.

“I think there’s a good chance of it. I would count it as a personal failure if the opportunity arises and we let it slip through our own fault,” said Morton.

He added: “I think the partners are ready mentally for a merger. It’s certainly more than just saying, ‘here’s our number if you want to call us’.”

Morton declined to reveal which firms would make the ideal suitor, but said he would be prepared to look beyond New York. He added that the areas on which Freshfields would not compromise on are quality and culture.

And although a staunch supporter of Freshfields’ lockstep system, Morton told The Lawyer he would be prepared to alter the lockstep to make a merger happen.

The closest Freshfields has come to securing a link-up with a US firm was just over five years ago. The magic circle firm held exploratory talks with New York heavyweight Debevoise & Plimpton in 2000 with a view to certain practice areas – particularly securities – working in a joint venture-style arrangement.