Davis Wright Tremaine to absorb financial services law firm McGonigle

3 minute read

REUTERS/Yuriko Nakao(JAPAN)

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  • Large law firm Davis Wright Tremaine is set to combine with 44-laywer McGonigle
  • A middle school connection between the children of partners at both firms helped lay the groundwork for a merger

(Reuters) - Davis Wright Tremaine will merge with financial services law firm McGonigle on July 1, adding Chicago and Richmond, Virginia offices to its national footprint in the process.

Washington, D.C-based McGonigle’s 44 lawyers will join Davis Wright’s banking, securities, and financial services practice, which will more than double in size, the firms said in a statement Friday.

The merger appears to be the largest announced by a major law firm so far in 2022, amid what's been a slowdown in firm merger activity over the past two years.

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The combination will give Seattle-founded Davis Wright, which has 550 lawyers, its first Midwest office in Chicago. The move will also add 22 lawyers to Davis Wright’s existing Washington office, and 15 to its New York location, the firms said. Four McGonigle lawyers are slated to work out of the Richmond outpost for the combined firm, they said.

Davis Wright’s attorneys are known for their work in consumer banking, fintech and payments spaces, while McGonigle is well-versed in securities, commodities, white collar and government enforcement, said Bradford Hardin, a partner at Davis Wright.

Hardin will be co-chair of the firm's new banking, financial services and securities practice group alongside McGonigle Chairwoman Elizabeth Lan Davis.

“We have been working for years to expand our capabilities in the securities space because our clients demand it,” said Hardin.

The merger came together relatively quickly with informal talks starting midway through March, said Davis Wright managing partner Scott MacCormack. Davis Wright partner Alexandra Steinberg Barrage played matchmaker by reaching out to Elizabeth Davis, she said. Their sons attend the same school.

“I got a text from her out of the blue saying, ‘Are you interested in a business opportunity?’” Davis said.

There were only 14 completed firm mergers in the first quarter of this year, down from the historical Q1 average of 22 over the past decade, according to data from law firm consultancy Fairfax Associates.

But there is reason to believe that mergers will pick up now that law firm leaders are more able to have in-person meetings and devote more time to long-term planning, said Fairfax Associates consultant Lisa Smith.

“The interest in mergers never really waned, but the activity slipped a bit due to the pandemic,” she said.

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Reporting by Karen Sloan

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Karen Sloan reports on law firms, law schools, and the business of law. Reach her at karen.sloan@thomsonreuters.com