Lovells hits legal top 10 with US deal

Partners at City law firm Lovells and Washington-based Hogan & Hartson voted through merger plans to create the world’s ninth-largest legal practice by sales yesterday.

The new firm, to be known as Hogan Lovells, will have sales of £1.1bn and 2,500 lawyers in 40 offices around the world. The enlarged firm comes into being on 1 May.

The merger is the biggest tie-up of a US and a UK firm to date. In the past UK firms have preferred to grow organically in America because of failed deals by big players in the early part of the decade.

The deal also signals that despite a downturn in the legal market some firms are still bullish about the growth prospects for legal services.

Many firms have been forced to lay off lawyers and cut back on hiring due to slowdowns in demand for corporate and litigation work. In the UK Magic Circle firms Linklaters and Allen & Overy this year both cut around 850 jobs between them. As a result, most law firms have been wary of launching a merger.

Both Lovells and Hogan & Hartson have strong banking and corporate practices, and will also have sizeable regulatory, antitrust, intellectual property, real estate and litigation departments.

Lovells managing partner David Harris and Hogan chairman Warren Gorrell will take on the roles of co-chief executives until 2014. Lovells senior partner John Young is set to become co-chairman alongside Hogan corporate and project finance partner Claudette Christian.

Harris said: “The new firm will have distinctive strengths. It will also provide clients with access to considerable industry knowledge and resource in key sectors, including energy, financial services, telecommunications, media and technology.”

Lovells had turnover of £531m last year, while Hogan & Hartson, headquartered in Washington, made sales of $922m (£568m), making it the 22nd largest law firm in the US.