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Merger With Global Firm Would Have Local Impact on Bell Boyd

A law firm that established a hub for its life sciences practice in Carmel Valley in February is considering merging with an international firm.

K & L; Gates, a global firm with more than 1,700 attorneys, and Chicago-based Bell, Boyd & Lloyd said Dec. 4 that they might merge as early as the first quarter of 2009.

Bell Boyd employs 13 attorneys and patent specialists in San Diego who help counsel emerging companies on all aspects of launching their businesses and bringing their products to market.

If approved by partners of the two firms, the merger would create a 2,000-lawyer firm with 30 offices spread throughout the United States, Europe and Asia.

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Peter Kalis, chairman and global managing partner of K & L; Gates, said part of the agreement being discussed involves keeping attorneys on staff in their current positions. He said the firm would maintain Bell Boyd offices in Chicago, San Diego and Washington, D.C.

K & L; Gates already has a California presence, with offices in Irvine, Los Angeles, Palo Alto and San Francisco.

While the firm has offices scattered across the globe, it has yet to establish a site in the fourth largest legal market in the world, Kalis said.

“We have 28 offices, including four in Asia, three in Europe and 21 across the United States,” he said. “We had this hole right in the middle of it called Chicago.”

The majority of Bell Boyd’s attorneys , about 200 out of 250 , are based in its Chicago office.

K & L; Gates has experienced a year of growth, fueled in part by a large demand for legal counsel from emerging companies, according to Kalis.

In 2007, K & L; Gates had revenues of $755 million and profits per equity partner of $800,000. Bell Boyd had $129 million in revenue and profits per partner of $695,000.

In January, K & L; Gates combined with Hughes & Luce, a firm of 150 attorneys with offices in Austin, its Dallas headquarters, and Fort Worth, Texas. In July, it merged with Kennedy Covington Lobdell & Hickman, a 200-attorney firm with offices in Charlotte, Raleigh and Research Triangle Park in North Carolina.

Kalis said talks between K & L; Gates and Bell Boyd began during the summer and came to a peak in early fall. Kalis said he doesn’t expect K & L; to acquire any other firms in the near future.

“I think there are expectations to grow, but I would say we’ve got enough on our plates now,” he said.

The National Law Journal recently ranked K & L; Gates the 10th largest law firm in the United States, with Bell Boyd placing 167th. The rankings are based on the number of attorneys.


Editor’s note: A previous version of this story gave outdated revenue figures for the merging law firms. This version has been corrected.

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