By Megan R. Wilson - 05/27/14 03:40 PM EDT
There will be “bloodletting” at Patton Boggs before the mega-merger with Squire Sanders is completed, according to a former lawyer at the law and lobby giant.
“You would call it a merger, but there is certainly a degree of bloodletting before that happens,” the lawyer said. “That’s part of the deal.”
Patton and Squire announced late Friday that they are merging into a mammoth law firm with offices around the globe. The deal likely ends a period of uncertainty for Patton, which has suffered from declining business despite its long reign as the top-earning lobby firm in Washington.
The new firm, Squire Patton Boggs, will consist of 1,223 lawyers from Squire and about 334 from Patton, according to a fact sheet released on Friday.
But in order to reach that number, Patton will have to shed an estimated 40 to 50 lawyers, with some possibly taking retirement.
“Many of those people will move off into retirement, so there won’t be an announcement from another firm that they have joined it — they will simply disappear,” the former lawyer said.
The leaders of Squire Patton Boggs addressed concerns about the compatibility of the two firms' advocacy arms in a call with reporters on Friday but did not get into specifics about layoffs.
“In a year or two, I’m sure that this will be written up by most of you on the phone as one of the most successful law firm” combinations ever, Thomas “Tommy” Hale Boggs Jr. said.
Jim Maiwurm, Squire’s chair and global CEO, would only say that a “substantial amount of each legacy firm will be joining the combined firm.”
About 60 Squire lawyers based in Washington will be moving to Patton’s office in the city’s West End neighborhood. In New York, members of Patton’s legal team will be packing up for Squire's offices at 30 Rockefeller Plaza.
Experts said significant staff turnover is common in major legal mergers.
“In every merger, there is some attrition. It’s highly unusual for that not to occur,” said Peter Zeughauser a chairman of the law firm consultants Zeughauser Group, who has no inside knowledge of the deal. “And, of course, Patton Boggs has been executing on its strategic plan for about a year now, and that has involved some right-sizing.”
The shake-up has set K Street’s rumor mill into overdrive, with lobbyists trading information about who might be headed for the exits.
Some of the talk is centered on John Jonas, a partner who founded Patton’s healthcare practice. Insiders say he is headed to rival firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld and could wind up taking a sizable group of lobbyists with him.
One person called it an “open secret” within Patton that Jonas is leaving for Akin, a firm that is second only to Patton Boggs in total lobbying revenue.
Jonas works for a number of high-powered clients, including the American Ambulance Association, the American Association of Orthodontists and Otsuka America Pharmaceutical.
When asked about Jonas, Ed Newberry, the global managing partner focused on regulatory and policy solutions at Squire Patton Boggs, told The Hill a group of attorneys is leaving the firm.
“In any law firm merger of this magnitude, some individuals will choose not to participate for any number of reasons, including fit, conflicts, and others," he said through a spokeswoman. "While we are sorry to see this group of attorneys leave, we are excited to embark on a new chapter in continuing to build our public policy practice."
The new firm, Newberry says, will still have more than 110 healthcare lawyers representing blue-chip clients worldwide.
Akin Gump did not comment on whether Jonas would be joining the firm.
Other lawyers say the departures from Patton will include people who have not been invited to stay on.
Reports have indicated that James Tyrrell, the managing partner of Patton Boggs's greater New York and New Jersey offices, will not be invited to join Squire Patton Boggs.
Much of Patton’s New Jersey office could be laid off as well, retaining only essential members such as the team of Mark Sheridan, who is serving as counsel to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s (R) reelection campaign and helping him deal with investigations into the "Bridgegate" scandal.
It remains to be seen how the lobbying operations of Patton and Squire will be combined.
Squire had just begun to cultivate an in-house advocacy practice by bringing on heavyweight lobbyist Al Cardenas and other members of his firm, which focuses on Florida-based clients. Patton’s lobbying team is anchored by big names such as former Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and former Rep. John Breaux (R-La.).
“[Former Sen.] Trent Lott and Al Cardenas have been friends for a very long time,” Boggs said Tuesday.
“[The two lobby shops] They fit together like a hand and glove,” Maiwurm said.
The merger discussions between the two firms began earlier this year. The deal faced a few setbacks, in particular Patton Boggs’ litigation with Chevron. But a settlement with the oil giant earlier this month cleared the path for the merger to occur, according to legal experts.
Putting the law firms together “had more than its fair share of issues,” Maiwurm said, “as all law firm combinations do.”
The leaders of the new firm expressed optimism about its future, with Maiwurm calling it a "game changer" in the legal industry.
Newberry agreed, saying, “In this difficult legal environment, where demand is not growing — in some places it’s declining … we’re able to differentiate ourselves from some of the best firms in the entire world. Because we are one of the best firms in the world."
“We liked each other from the beginning,” he said, adding that as time went on, lawyers became “more and more enthusiastic about this combination.”