February 21, 2017 / 8:33 PM / 3 years ago

Law Firms Norton Rose Fulbright and Chadbourne & Parke to Merge

Feb 21 (Reuters) - Global law firm Norton Rose Fulbright announced on Tuesday it would merge with New York-based Chadbourne & Parke to form a firm of some 4,000 lawyers with offices in 32 countries.

The deal is expected to close in the second quarter and the combined firm will use the Norton Rose Fulbright name.

It is the latest merger for London-based Norton Rose Fulbright, already one of the world’s largest law firms with about 3,700 lawyers. The current firm is the result of successive mergers, most notably a 2013 tie-up with the former Texas firm Fulbright & Jaworski.

Mergers in the legal industry have been on the rise since the 2008 financial crisis amid stagnant demand and intense competition. There were 85 law firm mergers and acquisitions in 2016, according to a report by the legal consulting firm Altman Weil, down just slightly from a record high of 91 in 2015.

Chadbourne is best-known for advising banks on project finance deals around the world. The firm also has a well-regarded litigation department led by Abbe Lowell, who represented Democratic members of Congress during President Bill Clinton’s 1999 impeachment hearings.

Chadbourne and Norton Rose have “complementary practices,” said Daryl Lansdale, Norton Rose’s managing partner for the Americas. Both firms represent energy companies and advise on deals in Latin America.

Among clients the two firms both represent are Deutsche Bank AG , Banco Santander SA and French energy company Engie SA.

The merger will also give Norton Rose a larger presence in New York, where many of Chadbourne’s lawyers are based.

Legal industry consultant Jon Lindsey of Major Lindsey & Africa said law firms are facing economic pressure as large corporations bring more legal work in-house or outsource to cheaper alternative service providers.

In such an environment, mergers are attractive to many firms, Lindsey said. Big firms are better able to withstand drops in demand in particular areas and are also able to afford the global presence clients increasingly demand, he said.

Chadbourne has seen its revenue drop substantially in recent years as high-profile partners have left for other firms, according to data from The American Lawyer, a trade magazine.

Norton Rose Fulbright had $1.732 billion in global revenue in its most recent fiscal year, a 3 percent decrease from the year before. In a June 2016 statement, the firm blamed the drop in revenue on exchange rate fluctuations. (Reporting by Jan Wolfe; Editing by Tom Brown)

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