Jami McKeon was Morgan Lewis’s first ever female chair, having been elected in October 2013 and taking over last year. She then completed the deal with Bingham McCutchen, which oversaw the addition of 226 partners who joined Morgan Lewis.
The Lawyer spoke to Ms McKeon about the delicate negotiations involving the Morgan Lewis deal along with her own plans.
“We had maintained a strong policy not to comment on negotiations. You can unintentionally have an impact on another firm,” she says, speaking about the deal for the first time.
This much everyone knows: after months of negotiations between Morgan Lewis and Bingham, the former opted out of a formal merger or even a takeover, instead giving the green light for the lateral hire of 525 staff and associates alongside 226 partners.
Bingham partners approached Morgan Lewis, McKeon says.
“When we went into 2014 we didn’t have an eye on the notion of doing a combination of great size, especially in the US,” she explains. “As we began talking to people from Bingham we really began to see that a combination of this type would satisfy some of the strategic priorities that we have focused on.”
So was a merger ever in the plans? “At the beginning we had a conversation. Things evolved over time and we all started looking at what made most sense. There was no grand plan one way or the other.”
McKeon dismisses claims of cherry-picking partners.
“I guess I would say while there is some truth to that, we did a combination with a substantial number of lawyers at the firm,” she says. “We didn’t say ‘we will take the top 25 or 50 partners’.
“The reason why it [a merger] doesn’t happen very often is that it is a major undertaking. There is a temptation on the part of firms when there are these opportunities to pick off only one office and one practice.”
Client conflicts also eliminated some Bingham partners from the deal.
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