Typical – no juicy merger rumours for a while, and all of a sudden they all come along at once. Two particularly splendid stories are doing the rounds at the moment, so in keeping with the public-spirited ethos of The Lawyer, we feel we should share them with you.
The first story, which has been circulating for about a month now, is that Allen & Overy is about to merge with Macfarlanes. One should pause here to acknowledge the snorts of derision and denial from Wilson Street and New Change. But as we said at The Lawyer Awards last week, when Macfarlanes won the plum accolade of Law Firm of the Year, it's the firm most others would like to merge with. Failing that, it would also appear to be the firm most lawyers would love to see married off.
Right-thinking people should applaud Macfarlanes' role of defiant
singleton holding out against the smug marrieds. This is a firm for which a lateral hire is a seismic event and which could not be less global if it tried. All the arguments pile up against any deal with A&O – culture, client base, social class and global aspirations. About the only similarity is that both firms manage to combine profitability with a commitment to private client work; hardly any basis for serious discussions. Yet despite the fact that the two partnerships are entirely different animals, for some reason this rumour has legs. You call journalists gossips? We're not in your league.
And now for the second tale, regarding Ashurst Morris Crisp's 'talks' with Lovells. Note, if you will, the eerie coincidence that the entire management of both firms seemed to be out at external meetings last Friday, so meaningful responses were in short supply. (No change there, then.)
But consider: Ashursts and Lovells were in talks several years ago.
Ashursts, which clearly has a problem with commitment, then moved on to Clifford Chance and Latham & Watkins before settling for an apparently confirmed bachelorhood. While both firms have embarked on an accelerated expansion programme since their original discussions, questions nevertheless remain over resources on a European scale. Lovells is in a better position in terms of bodies given its merger with Boesebeck Droste, though its Paris office needs a big lift. If creating a business case were merely a function of joining up the dots, then the rumour has a plausible
ring to it. But in any event, it would be missing the point – what both
firms need is US capability.
Anyway, we're sure there's nothing in it. Is there?