Exclusive: Norton Rose Fulbright to merge with Chadbourne & Parke

Norton Rose Fulbright is on the brink of merging with US firm Chadbourne & Parke.

Chadbourne has global revenue of £163m. Meanwhile Norton Rose Fulbright’s global revenue is $1.156bn.

The merger talks are in “advanced stages” and a combination is expected to be announced imminently.

Partners at both firms were told about the talks two weeks ago, The Lawyerunderstands.

The merger would effectively be a bolt-on for Norton Rose, which has grown rapidly through a series of mergers since the transformative US firm Fulbright & Jaworski merger in 2012.

It follows the same model as the Fulbright merger in 2012, which saw it prioritise building a global energy and projects practice.

Chadbourne has 103 partners in nine cities globally including 15 in London. The bulk are in the US, where it has 75 partners.

Meanwhile Norton Rose Fulbright has 1,156 partners and 3,099 lawyers worldwide as of the 2015/16 financial year.

According to The Lawyer’s Global 200 report, the two firm’s average profit per equity partner (PEP) is roughly the same. Chadbourne’s PEP is £512.3m, while Norton Rose Fulbright’s PEP is £550m. 

At the time of Norton Rose’s merger with Fulbright & Jaworski, The Lawyerreported that City corporate partners were unhappy not to be joining a New York firm, or at least one with a strong New York corporate and finance practice.

In the last few years, Norton Rose Fulbright has been in expansion mode. Last year, the firm acquired Vancouver firm Bull Housser to add a Vancouver base to its network after merging with Macleod Dixon and Ogilvy Renault.

Norton Rose Fulbright said it wanted to target Brazil and Mexico after merging with legacy Fulbright & Jaworski. The firm so far has offices in Rio de Janeiro, Bogotá and Caracas.

Chardborne has been in the market for a merger in recent years. In 2015, it held merger talks with US rival Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman, but the discussions were later called off following two months of speculation.

Had the merger gone ahead, it would have created a firm with more than 930 lawyers and turnover above $800m (£526.3m).

Prior to the Pillsbury talks, Chardborne overhauled its Asia strategy bypulling out of China. In July 2015, it closed its Beijing office 15 years after it opened in the country’s capital. The Beijing office had always been a small operation and at the time of the closure it was a one-lawyer team on the ground, according to the firm.