Pillsbury Winthrop Said in Talks to Merge With Chadbourne Parke

  • Tie-up would create one of the most profitable U.S. law firms
  • Legal industry consolidation following recession continues

Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP and Chadbourne & Parke LLP are in preliminary merger talks which if successful would create one of America’s most profitable law firms with almost 1,000 attorneys, Bloomberg BNA’s Big Law Business reported, citing people familiar with the matter.

The negotiations are part of a trend of post-recession consolidation in the legal industry. Last year, Morgan Lewis & Bockius LLP acquired the assets of Bingham McCutchen after the Boston-based firm suffered declines in mortgage-backed securities and restructuring work. Earlier in 2014, the Washington lobbying firm Patton Boggs was acquired by the larger Squire Sanders of Cleveland.

“It’s not surprising, in an environment where demand growth has been flat or modest at best, to see various forms of consolidation on the rise,” said Dan DiPietro, chairman of the law firm lending group at Citi Private Bank.

Larger Firm

Pillsbury, the larger firm with 600 lawyers, specializes in energy and natural resources, financial services and technology. Chadbourne, founded in 1902, has 345 lawyers and specializes in project finance, bankruptcy and litigation. Republican U.S. presidential candidate George Pataki worked at Chadbourne in 2007 after serving as governor of New York.

If consummated, the deal could create an $810 million firm by revenue, placing it at the top end of the 50 largest law firms in the country, according to The American Lawyer, a trade magazine.

The unified law firm would become a formidable player in the energy sector, with Chadbourne advising clients such as Duke Energy Corp. and Pillsbury representing Chevron Corp. Leaders of both San Francisco-based Pillsbury and New York-based Chadbourne declined to comment on the merger talks.

Closed Offices

After closing several foreign outposts, Chadbourne maintains 11 offices, with three in the U.S. -- in Los Angeles, New York and Washington. The others are in Warsaw, Sao Paulo, Moscow, London, Dubai, Johannesburg and Istanbul.

The firm has seen several lawyers exit in recent years, including Thomas Riley, former head of Chadbourne’s litigation practice, and Gregory Loss, the head of product liability. Both joined Herbert Smith Freehills LLP in New York.

At Pillsbury, the firm lost a large corporate team in March from offices in New York, London and Abu Dhabi to Winston & Strawn LLP. Although it quickly added headcount, including a large group from McKenna Long & Aldridge LLP, the firm’s roster is down 30 percent compared with 2006.