Morgan Lewis to Add 227 Bingham Partners: Business of Law

Don’t call it a merger.

After months of speculation, the partners at Morgan Lewis & Bockius LLP voted Nov. 14 to admit 227 partners from Bingham McCutchen LLP, almost three-fourths of Bingham’s partners.

In a brief statement, Morgan Lewis said it will have close to 2,000 lawyers in 28 offices after the Bingham contingent arrives later this month. The new partners will make Morgan Lewis one of the biggest worldwide.

Nowhere in the statement did the firm use the words “merger” or “combination” which, presumably, was intentional. A spokesman, Elliott Frieder, declined to comment on the moves.

Morgan Lewis currently has close to 1,400 lawyers. It appears that about 400 associates and counsel will also be joining along with the 227 partners to achieve the 2,000 total. Frieder declined to say which partners wouldn’t be joining.

Bingham has about 700 attorneys, according to its website. The firm has 307 partners, 174 counsel and of counsel, 195 associates, and 19 “other professionals.” A Bingham spokeswoman, Claire Papanastasiou, also declined to comment on the changes.

The Nov. 14 vote is the culmination of a tumultuous stretch for Bingham.

Last year, the firm’s revenue dropped, according to the trade publication the American Lawyer, and a group of 11 securities lawyers left for Sidley Austin LLP. Other attorneys decamped as well, although the firm continued to add partners throughout 2013.

After the Morgan Lewis rumors began circulating this year, 63 lawyers from Bingham’s offices in London, Hong Kong and Frankfurt announced a move to Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP.

Morgan Lewis Chair Jami Wintz McKeon said in an interview last month that the firm emphasized integrating new lawyers brought from other firms. She oversaw the addition of 159 from the defunct Brobeck Phleger & Harrison in 2003, which she likened to cooking.

“You add flour slowly and keep stirring,” she said. It’s important, she said of lawyers, to “incorporate them into the culture.”

She didn’t return a call Nov. 14.

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