SJ Berwin and Proskauer Rose: the talks are over

SJ Berwin and Proskauer Rose have called off their merger talks, more than six months after negotiations began.

SJ Berwin managing partner Rob Day told The Lawyer that although the firm’s leadership felt the Proskauer deal “was a very good one” there were still issues the two firms had not resolved centering on terms and the overall business case.

Day added: “The other point is that this had become a very long story and it would take considerably longer to resolve everything.

“The mismatch between profitability was one of the issues but not the only issue. It was also the realisation that we still had a long period of time to go to continue talking and this had already been in the public eye for a long time.”

Partners at both firms were told that discussions had been called off shortly after 3pm on Friday. There has been no vote among partners. The decision was taken following a meeting between the heads of both firms yesterday (11 November) afternoon.

One SJ Berwin partner said, “I thought there would have been a consultation or discussion but we’re there [with Proskauer] one minute and gone the next”.

The partner added that he expected there to be more partner exits following the termination of merger talks.

In a joint statement, the firms said: “Our discussions began on the basis of a longstanding and profound mutual respect founded on outstanding lawyering ability, a commitment to client service, and synergistic practice capabilities. Our discussions end with the same profound respect, and with the greatest admiration for all the partners we have met during the course of this process.

“At this stage in our discussions we recognised that the timetable necessary to reach the agreements that would ensure the successful integration of our firms is not workable at this time.

“Accordingly, and with considerable regret, we have mutually determined to halt our talks. We look forward to continued cooperation between our firms for the benefit of our clients.”

The end of discussions comes just two weeks after Day took over as new managing partner at the City firm following an election that some partners believed exposed a divided partnership.

Discussions with Proskauer were thought to have been driven by a small group of SJ Berwin partners led by Day and including corporate chief Steven Davis, head of competition Stephen Kon and litigation head Craig Pollack.

Meanwhile, SJ Berwin has released its half year results with the firm’s revenue increasing by 9 per cent and profits rocketing by 34 per cent. In the first six months of 2010-11, the firm brought in £87m in fees.