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Greenberg Traurig Says It’s Talked to Dewey About Lawyers

Greenberg Traurig LLP said it has held preliminary discussions regarding lawyers at Dewey & LeBoeuf LLP, the New York law firm said to be considering options including a pre-packaged bankruptcy filing.

“We have had preliminary discussions relating to lawyers at Dewey LeBoeuf but we have made no commitments, have not reached agreements and have had no involvement in the firm’s financial situation or relationships,” Jill Perry, a Greenberg Traurig spokeswoman, said in an e-mailed statement yesterday.

Greenberg Traurig has grown into a firm with more than 1,700 lawyers and 29 U.S. locations without having done a merger, Perry said in the statement. The New York-based firm regularly considers “quality opportunities” and had discussions “in that spirit,” according to the statement.

More than 60 partners have left Dewey during what the firm has called a restructuring process. The largest exiting contingent was a group of 12 insurance and regulatory lawyers who went to Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP last month.

A team led by Dewey partners Martin Bienenstock and Bruce Bennett is considering a so-called pre-packaged bankruptcy plan, a person familiar with the matter said. Such a plan, which would be approved by creditors before it was filed, could lead to a merger with another U.S. firm, said the person who asked not to be identified because he isn’t authorized to discuss the plans publicly. The team is also examining what would happen if the firm shuts down, the person said.

‘Various Paths’

“We are considering various paths, including continuing to operate as an independent global law firm and a strategic combination with another leading law firm, the latter of which could take many forms,” Angelo Kakolyris, a spokesman for Dewey, said yesterday in a statement. “Nothing, however, at this point, is definitive.”

Kakolyris didn’t immediately return calls after regular business hours yesterday seeking comment on talks with Greenberg Traurig, which were reported earlier by the Wall Street Journal.

Dewey ranks third among legal advisers to investment banks advising companies on mergers this year, based on the announced dollar value of deals, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Bienenstock’s restructuring team represented Los Angeles Dodgers LLC in its bankruptcy and sale to a group including former professional basketball player Magic Johnson.

Bill Brennan, a consultant with Altman Weil Inc. who advises on law firm mergers, said the firm’s debt poses an obstacle to any merger plans.

“Typically the buyers of a law firm in financial difficulty are much larger and the debt and financial problems of the smaller firm are easily absorbed,” Brennan said. There are only a handful of firms that fit the bill in Dewey’s case, Brennan said.

Dewey raised $125 million in a 2010 bond offering to refinance existing bank debt, a rare action by a U.S. law firm.

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