Bond Dickinson to merge with Womble

Bond Dickinson is poised to enter the Global 100 as it announces its merger with Washington DC-headquartered Womble Carlyle, two years after the firms entered into a strategic alliance.

Following a partner vote on Tuesday 30 May, the combined entity will launch on 1 October this year. It will be known as Womble Bond Dickinson and be structured as a company limited by guarantee, allowing the two sides to function as separate LLPs and retain control of remuneration policies.

Bond Dickinson managing partner Jonathan Blair told The Lawyer: “This is a revenue play, this is about enhancing our business, building our brand, being able to compete.”

In 2015 Womble Carlyle was placed 147 in The Lawyer Global 200. In the financial year ending December 2016 Womble Carlyle turned over $281m, which will place it 151 in The Lawyer Global 200 2017.

In The Lawyer UK200 2016 Bond Dickinson was placed 39th.

However, the combined revenues of the two firms would take it into the global top 100 for the first time. Its joint turnover of $437.2m would place it at 92nd, ahead of Irwin Mitchell, Addleshaw Goddard, Osborne Clarke, Macfarlanes and Stephenson Harwood.

Both firms recorded a dip in turnover in their most recently-reported financial years. Womble Carlyle’s revenues dropped three per cent, while in 2015/16 Bond Dickinson’s turnover fell by the same proportion, from £107m to £104m.

Blair said that the two firms had not originally entered into an alliance with a definite plan to merge, but that the arrangement was a key plank in Bond Dickinson’s ambition to be a top 20 firm.

“There were initially some preconceptions about cultural alignment but we work very effectively together,” he said. “The biggest task now is to capitalise on the buzz and excitement in the firm. If people don’t embrace it, it will be less effective.”

The Womble Bond Dickinson board will be co-chaired by Blair and Womble chair and CEO, Betty Temple. Two representatives from each side will also sit on the board.

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