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Partners at U.S. law firm Piper Rudnick LLP and London-based DLA voted to merge, creating the world’s third- largest law firm by number of lawyers.

Partners at U.S. law firm Piper Rudnick LLP and London-based DLA voted to merge, creating the world’s third- largest law firm by number of lawyers.

The merger will be completed on Jan. 1, the firms said in a press release. The combined firm will have 2,700 lawyers across 49 offices in the U.S., Europe and Asia, with estimated 2005 revenue of $1.5 billion and one of the biggest international practices in real estate, litigation, lobbying and technology.

The combination is Piper Rudnick’s second merger in less than two months, following an October union with Palo Alto, California- based Gray Cary Ware & Friedenrich. The firm, to be called DLA Piper Rudnick Gray Cary, is the first to target “everyday” legal services such as property and litigation through a major international merger, said Ward Bower, a principal at consulting company Altman Weil Inc.

“This isn’t a play to be a leading capital markets or M&A firm,” said Bower, an adviser to both firms on the merger. “This deal is about creating a global corporate and commercial services firm to service global clients, which is a very different, and very open, segment of the market.”

Surging capital markets and record demand for deal advice in the late 1990s and early 2000 led to multinational mergers by firms such as Clifford Chance LLP, the world’s largest, and U.K.-based Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer. The last Anglo-American merger by a top 10 law firm was between Cleveland-based Jones Day, the world’s seventh-largest law firm, and London-based Gouldens in February 2003.

“There’s never been a merger like our merger,” said Piper Rudnick co-Chairman Lee Miller. “Our firm will become the only one with 1,300 lawyers on both sides of the Atlantic.”

Piper Rudnick’s clients include MCI Inc., formerly known as WorldCom Inc., Altria Inc.’s Philip Morris International and pharmaceutical company Wyeth. Former Texas Congressman Dick Armey and former Michigan governor James Blanchard are lawyers in the firm’s government affairs group, which has an alliance with former U.S. Secretary of Defense William Cohen’s consulting group. Piper Rudnick had net income of $169.5 million on $502 million in revenue in 2003.

DLA has more than 200 real estate lawyers advising clients such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc.’s Asda and Dixons Group Plc, Britain’s largest consumer electronics retailer. The firm also specializes in insurance, communications and regulatory law. DLA had profit of 91.2 million pounds ($176 million) on 275.4 million pounds in revenue for the year ended April 30.

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