Sonnenschein, Denton to Merge Into 1,400-Lawyer Firm

Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal LLP, a U.S. law firm founded in Chicago, will combine with London-based Denton Wilde Sapte LLP if partners vote to approve, both firms said.

The combined firm will be known as SNR Denton and will have more than 1,400 lawyers in 18 countries, according to a statement today. The heads of each firm will serve as co-chief executive officers, according to the joint statement.

“Neither of us was interested in pursuing a combination just for the sake of increasing head count and offices,” Denton Wilde CEO Howard Morris said in the statement. “This is not about dots on a map. The end goal for both firms was enhancing legal quality and client service.”

If approved, it will be the second major combination of a U.S. and U.K. firm in the past year. On May 1, Washington-based Hogan & Hartson and London-based Lovells LLP joined to create Hogan Lovells, a 2,500-lawyer firm with about 40 offices, according to its website.

“Looking back in history, it is relatively rare to see transcontinental mergers,” said Kent Zimmermann, a consultant with Zeughauser Group. “It’s been telling that there have been two recently. Globalization is the number one thing affecting the economy, and the number one thing affecting law firms.”

Sonnenschein in December 2008 hired about 100 lawyers from Thacher Proffitt & Wood, a New York-based law firm felled by the economic recession. Sonnenschein is home to novelist Scott Turow.

Denton handles work for clients in energy, transport and infrastructure, financial institutions, real estate and retail and technology, media and telecommunications sectors, according to the firm’s website. It has offices in the Middle East, Europe, Russia and South East Asia.