The two firms already operate Grupo Legal Português, a joint venture in Portugal. Simmons managing partner David Dickinson confirmed that Simmons is in discussions with the 44-lawyer firm about a full merger. The Lawyer understands that full financial integration has been agreed and the discussions relate to how to operate the merger.
A merger with Castelo Branco will help Simmons in its goal to break the Iberian Peninsula. Castelo Branco is best friends with Brazilian firm Veraino, which is one of Latin America's leading technology, media and telecoms practices. The Veraino relationship is currently limited to Portugal.
Simmons, Grupo Legal and Veraino have a number of common clients, most notably Spanish telecoms company Jazztel and BP. It is believed that, if the merger with Castelo Branco goes through, Simmons will pursue its own firmwide best friends strategy with Veraino.
Simmons set up its joint venture with Castelo Branco in 1992. Simmons has one resident partner, William Smithson, working in Castelo Branco's offices. The merger is being pursued as Portuguese bar rules preventing foreign firms officially practising in Portugal have been lifted. Last July, a European directive allowing EU firms to open in any EU country was transposed into Portuguese national law. Since then, Linklaters and Spanish magic circle firm Uría & Menéndez have opened Portuguese offices.
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