Lovells, the City law firm, was in talks on Wednesday night over a merger with Washington-based Hogan & Hartson aimed at creating a rare successful big transatlantic legal tie-up, said people familiar with the matter.
The proposed deal would create a law firm with a strong litigation focus and a size just below the big four British “Magic Circle” international firms.
A Lovells-Hogan link-up would create a firm with a different character from the Magic Circle transaction-based practices that have for years made mostly fruitless attempts to combine with leading New York counterparts.
Lovells’ management committee was discussing the matter on Wednesday night, said one person familiar with the move, but he stressed the two sides were still far from agreeing terms.
“It’s not pie in the sky as a notion,” he said. “But we are long way from being in a position where there is something concrete on the table.”
The firms have spent months discussing a deal to create a business with combined revenue of $1.9bn (£1.2bn), the person said.
If the respective managements agree, the tie-up would then have to be signed off by hundreds of individual partners – a condition that has scuppered previous law firm mergers.
Both firms have a strong focus on areas such as litigation, intellectual property and regulation, although neither is considered among the biggest players in the corporate merger and acquisition deals that drove the profession’s long boom before the financial crisis.
Attention has focused for years on the efforts of Magic Circle transaction-based firms Clifford Chance, Linklaters, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and Allen & Overy to establish a significant foothold in the US.
The London-based firms have moved carefully in part because of the culture-clash difficulties experienced by Clifford Chance after its turbulent 2000 merger with New York-based Rogers & Wells.
Lovells declined to comment, while Hogan & Hartson did not immediately return calls.
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