Atlanta-based Powell Goldstein has found a merger partner. On Jan. 1, the firm will become part of Bryan Cave, a 945-lawyer international firm with deep roots in St. Louis.
“This is a transformational event for us,” said Powell Goldstein’s chairman, James J. McAlpin Jr. “It propels us into a different league.”
PoGo gives up its name in the deal and cedes leadership to the St. Louis, Mo., firm. (The firm will be Bryan Cave-Powell Goldstein for two years in Atlanta and simply Bryan Cave elsewhere.) In return, PoGo’s lawyers gain an international and national platform that expands the depth and breadth of their practice groups — increasing the firm’s resources in areas such as intellectual property and broadening its core areas of banking, finance, real estate and litigation.
The firm has been increasingly hamstrung by its limited geographic reach as its local competitors have steadily added offices outside of the Southeast. PoGo had offices only in Atlanta and Washington, D.C., until 2006, when it opened a small Dallas outpost, followed by another in Charlotte, N.C., in January.
“In order to be in the game, even for work coming into the Southeast from international companies, you’ve got to have an international presence,” said McAlpin.
Powell Goldstein’s partnership voted unanimously to approve the deal Thursday afternoon and the Bryan Cave partners approved it by an overwhelming majority on Friday, following a week of electronic voting from the firm’s 17 law offices.
The two firms’ combined 2007 revenues are $602 million, which would place the merged firm right below King & Spalding on the Daily Report Dozen ranking of Atlanta-based firms — and at number 45 on last year’s Am Law 200 ranking.
With Powell Goldstein’s 220 lawyers, Bryan Cave will have 1,165 lawyers, well above the head count at King & Spalding.
The merger puts to rest months of speculation by the Atlanta legal community about PoGo’s future. That PoGo was looking for a partner has been an open secret. The city’s legal corps has watched with interest — and buzzed with rumors — for more than a year as the firm considered a variety of suitors.
What firm Powell Goldstein would pick has been an open question. Would it be a megafirm that would absorb the smaller firm, then strip it of its best assets and jettison the rest? Or would it be a firm that shared PoGo’s middle market niche and likewise valued loyal, long-term relationships with partners and clients — a key to PoGo’s culture?