2011’s season of mergers continues into 2012, with the Washington based international law firm McKenna Long & Aldridge announcing on Tuesday their plans to merge with San Diego based law firm Luce, Forward, Hamilton & Scripps, planned for March 1. This merger will strengthen McKenna Long & Aldridge’s standing in the Golden State, and extend Luce & Forward’s reach beyond California.
McKenna Long, whose clients include 3M, Monsanto Company, Bank of America N.A and Raytheon Company, whose offices include 475 lawyers internationally, with nine offices, including one in Brussels, others across the United States, and three already practicing in San Diego, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, hopes to strengthen its fields in California in insurance, real estate, government contracts, and corporate law.
“We took a long look at ways to better meet the growing needs of our clients on the West Coast,” said MLA Chair Jeff Jaidet. “The market for legal and regulatory work in California is growing, and Luce Forward’s statewide platform represented a perfect fit for our firm. MLA and Luce Forward Share similar values and cultures, and are fully committed to delivering innovative solutions to our clients. Combining with Luce Forward is part of our common strategic vision to pursue growth opportunities in our clients’ industries, to strengthen our core practice areas, and to further extend our culture of collaboration to our client relationships.”
The merger is by no means an act of desperation by either firm. In 2010, according to Am Law 100 financial data, McKenna Long increased gross revenues by 2.4 percent to $276.5 million, while Am Law 200 data shows Luce Forward increased gross revenues by 3.6 percent to $101.5 million. Luce Forward managing partner Kurt Kicklighter explained:
“Its really all about listening to our clients and doing what our clients want us to do. We’ve had clients saying we needed to be deeper in various practices, and if we had offices in other areas, they would consider us for more work. By combining with McKenna Long & Aldridge, we provide our clients with an international network of talented attorneys who can service any needs they might have beyond California.
Indeed, Luce Forward has long nursed national aspirations, at one time holding offices in New York City and Chicago. Yet the merger does not come without a cost. Luce Forward’s name is the oldest in San Diego, reaching back to their establishment in 1873. Said Kicklighter, “I think all of us who are San Diegans feel some sadness at the loss of the name. That name is an iconic one in San Diego.” They will take the name of McKenna Long and Aldridge.
Luce Forward has shuddered with the changes: some partners fearing layoffs or de-equitization have left, including Edward “Pat” Swan, the partner in charge of Luce Forward’s San Diego office, moving on to Jones Day.
Nevertheless, Kicklighter says “The merger is good for the bulk of lawyers here.” The current offices in California will be maintained as they are, though some changes may arise, “depending on leases and the integration of the practicing group.”
The merger will place McKenna Long & Aldridge LLP as one of the top 80 largest law firms in the US, and rank it in the 20 largest firms in California.