Dewey and Orrick merger talks collapse

It could have created one of the worlds largest law firms, but the merger talks between New York’s Dewey Ballantine and San Francisco’s Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe collapsed at the beginning of the year.

Although neither firm has a massive UK presence, both have invested heavily in their European networks recently. Orrick has always been desperate to bulk up in London; it took on much of the London office of international firm Coudert Brothers in 2005. (Those defections triggered a chain reaction that led to the collapse of Coudert last year.)

In any case, the London offices were pretty lukewarm about the merger Orrick London managing partner Martin Bartlam told The Lawyer that his office had always been fairly neutral to the merger.

But the thing that got the whole market talking was The Lawyer’s revelation (15 January) that Orrick chairman Ralph Baxter demanded a guaranteed $25m (12.9m) payout had the proposed merger gone through. (Baxter’s demands for unlimited first-class air travel for himself and at least one family member did not help much either.)

The payout demand plus wranglings over who would end up controlling the merged firm contributed strongly to Dewey’s decision to walk away from a merger that could have produced a global top 10, $1bn (515m)-turnover law firm.