The Los Angeles market could have yet another merger on the way. Although neither Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP nor Dewey Ballantine LLP is based in Los Angeles, both firms have offices here. The firms made their negotiations public last week.

Both Los Angeles offices are relatively small, with both local practices focusing on litigation and finance. Orrick has 65 lawyers here. Dewey has 30.

No final decisions have been made about where a combined office would be located, but there's talk of shuffling attorneys between the two offices which are less than one mile apart with the eventual goal of having once space. The firms are beginning their due diligence on local real estate.

The combined 1,500 lawyer firm would likely be called Dewey Orrick LLP with 21 offices worldwide and an estimated $1 billion in revenues, which would put the combined firm in line with the top 10 revenue generators in the United States.

Orrick posted $554 million in 2005 revenues with 723 lawyers. The firm now boasts 950. Dewey reported $393 million with 502 lawyers. It now employs 550. Perhaps more tellingly, the two firms had nearly the same profit-per-partner, $1.23 million at Dewey and $1.24 million at Orrick. Disparity in profits-per-partner is often given as the reason for failed mergers.

Lawyers at Dewey and Orrick weren't able to comment.

"Globally-dominant legal providers will be characterized by market-leading practice groups, with a particular strength in M & A;, finance and litigation; by having significant operations in all the world's leading commercial and financial center; and by attracting and retaining top legal talent due to their superior economic performance," Orrick Chairman Ralph Baxter said in a press release, adding: "All of these characteristics would mark Dewey Orrick."

In fact, Orrick has been looking for a firm that would give it entry into New York's financial markets. If Dewey gives Orrick the "in" on the East Coast, Orrick's reputation, profitability and larger size would benefit Dewey.

"I think it's pretty clear that New York is one of the most important financial markets in the world and this merger would give us one of the strongest footholds of any firm there," said Orrick Spokesperson David Schaefer. "It's New York and then the M & A; practice."

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