After voting to merge on February 26th 2018, America’s Bryan Cave and the English firm Berwin Leighton Paisner (BLP) have joined forces. From this union was born Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner, gathering over 1,400 lawyers in 32 offices in 13 different countries, placing it among the largest firms in the world. At its head, Therese Pritchard, former Bryan Cave Chair who specializes in white collar crime and securities enforcement and Lisa Mayhew, labor law expert, formerly BLP’s managing partner. Meeting with these two ambitious women.
Leaders League. What impulses drove this merger?
Therese Pritchard: After becoming of managing partner in 2014, Bryan Cave started a strategic plan to differentiate itself from similar law firms. We wanted to grow in three areas: real estate, financial services and the food and agriculture sector and were therefore extremely interested in merging with a firm that shared our ambition.
Lisa Mayhew. Coincidentally, BLP did its own strategic plan at approximately the same time and identified a need to grow in real estate and litigation, while continuing to extend the strength we already had in financial services and corporate business. We also felt a desire to strongly push our internationalization. We swam the river halfway but needed a partner to make the final stretch. BLP had been in discussions with another American firm which came to nothing. When Therese and I made contact, we quickly became confident enough our firms could easily merge. It took us longer than we wanted in the sense that we were soon heavily involved in preparations to mold both firms into a single outfit that could go on the same journey together.
Do you intend to continue developing by joining forces with other law firms?
L.M. and T.P. We do not expect to conduct mergers of the same size. But we do not rule out adding small firms in cities where we think we need additional strength. Our strategy is driven by the concept of being one united team while continuing to address the needs of clients across the globe.
How will the merger change in your relationship with clients? How did they react?
T.P. Before making this move public, we consulted our clients to get their thoughts on the merger. We were delighted to discover that, on both sides, they were very supportive.
L.M. In the month of May alone – one month only after the merger – we opened one hundred new cases for clients. I believe they are pleased their needs can now be covered on a larger scale. Therese and I were in London and Paris recently to celebrate the merger: in total we were able to meet in person with 800 clients, several of whom we have represented for a very long time. It is important to keep in mind that, at the end of the day, they are the ones who matter most.
Even so, I suppose your operating methods in terms of approaching clients/pricing etc. were not exactly the same. How will you reconcile these differences?
T.P. In the UK, law firms more often apply fixed rates, while in the US it is more common to charge by the hour. Local approaches can indeed be very different, but we do not believe there is a unique way to approach these things. We are a global firm. We want our lawyers to share the same vision but always take into account local differences.
Before you joined forces, both Bryan Cave and BLP were very active in the innovation field. How do you intend to continue this development within Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner?
L.M. Before joining forces, both sides developed several innovation tools. At Bryan Cave, they were using CrossLITE platform while at BLP we were the first law firm to use the AI product RAVN and to persuade courts in the UK to allow a client to use predictive coding in the document review process. Keeping in mind that we are not a tech company, we are willing to continue to develop the part technology plays in our activities to always better serve clients. Among all the other affinities we shared, this innovation path on both sides of the Atlantic gave us added conviction that our firms should come closer together.