After three months of talks, Boston-based Ropes & Gray and New York intellectual property firm Fish & Neave have decided to join forces.
The leaders of the two firms said Monday that they expect to merge around the end of the year. While 150-lawyer Fish & Neave will be absorbed into the 580-attorney Ropes & Gray, the Fish name will be used to designate Ropes & Gray’s intellectual property practice.
The merger gives Fish & Neave the resources and clientele of a national firm while Ropes & Gray gains a premiere IP practice — multiplying its 40-lawyer IP group fivefold — and a strong foothold in Silicon Valley. Since opening in San Francisco three years ago, Ropes & Gray has had trouble recruiting partners. The San Francisco outpost now has 10 lawyers.
“This gives us a wonderful critical mass in the Bay Area,” said Ropes & Gray Chairman R. Bradford Malt. He likened the effect to “a snowball rolling down a mountain.”
Fish & Neave Managing Partner William McCabe said the merger would give Fish & Neave lawyers greater access to clients.
“Fish & Neave tends to get hired for big, complex cases,” McCabe said. “We don’t tend to see clients for smaller or routine matters.” With the merger, Fish & Neave lawyers will get more exposure to general counsel working with Ropes & Gray on other matters.
Malt said the two firms have worked together on cases in the past and talked of combining a number of years ago. Partners considered the idea again this past summer and recently began calling on clients together.
Ropes & Gray’s eight-member policy committee, which acts like a board of directors, has approved the merger. Fish & Neave Chairman Jesse Jenner will be joining the committee after the merger.
While Fish & Neave has not yet taken a vote of the partnership, McCabe said that with the exception of one or two partners who do not want to join the combination, there has been “overwhelming support” for the union.