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By Casey Sullivan
NEW YORK, Oct 25 (Reuters) - Two top U.S. law firms are in advanced merger discussions to create one of the 10 largest in the country, according to the firms' chairmen.
San Francisco-based Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe is expected to sign a letter of intent next week to join with Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman, a source with direct knowledge of the discussions said.
Pillsbury Chairman James Rishwain and Orrick Chairman Mitch Zuklie issued a joint statement to Reuters on Friday that said: "Our firms are in exploratory discussions about a possible combination. These talks are serving to confirm the great respect our firms have for each other."
Orrick, with about 1,000 lawyers, is known for its intellectual property, litigation, emerging companies and corporate practices, while the 700-lawyer Pillsbury of New York has, among others, a well-known energy practice. Their joint revenue, based on figures reported by the legal trade publication American Lawyer for 2012, would have placed them at No. 9 in the United States.
Both law firms have centuries-old histories in California and a merger would bolster the new firm's ranks in Silicon Valley, San Francisco and Los Angeles.
Orrick is known for representing clients like Apple , Microsoft and PG&E Corp, according to its website. Pillsbury has represented, among others, Chevron Corp, BNY Mellon and Xerox, according to legal experts and the firm's website.
In recent years, according to Reuters, Orrick has represented Oracle Corp in a patent lawsuit against Google, claiming its Android mobile operating technology infringed Oracle's Java patents, and Microsoft in a patent lawsuit against Barnes & Noble over its Nook electronic book reader.
Pillsbury this year represented a number of companies and banks in mergers and acquisitions and initial public offerings like Deutsche Bank and Barclays Bank PLC on a $115 million IPO for Montage Tech Group and Synnex on a $505 million acquisition of IBM's Customer Care Unit, according to the firm's website.
One source who spoke on the condition of anonymity but was familiar with the merger said that the discussions between the firms have been ongoing for months and that Orrick is expected to sign the letter of intent sometime next week.
The deal could still fall apart, the source said.
Both firms have been looking for partners for some time. The more profitable firm, Orrick, engaged in protracted merger discussions in 2006 with Dewey Ballantine, according to legal experts, but Dewey ended up merging with LeBoeuf Lamb Greene & MacRae to form the ill-fated Dewey & LeBoeuf later that year.
Pillsbury has had discussions with a variety of firms like the Washington law firm Dickstein Shapiro and the larger Fulbright & Jaworski, which ended up merging with the UK-based Norton Rose earlier this year.
Reporting by Casey Sullivan; Editing by Kenneth Barry