Baker & McKenzie of Chicago, one of the nation's largest law firms, said Wednesday that is has absorbed the practice of Macdonald, Halsted & Laybourne, a mid-size Los Angeles-based firm with 70 lawyers in Los Angeles and San Diego.
Baker & McKenzie is one of the last of the large, national law firms to establish a presence in Los Angeles in quest of the area's growing Pacific Basin business. In the last few years more than 50 law firms with headquarters in New York and other cities have established offices in Los Angeles, many through acquisition of existing firms.
"We've always had a strong interest in Los Angeles," said Robert W. Cox, chairman of Baker & McKenzie's executive committee. "We kept looking at Los Angeles as it emerged in recent years as a dynamic market in so many ways, particularly in relation to the Pacific Basin."
The company concluded that starting an office with only a few lawyers would not serve its clients well, he said. Ten months of negotiation brought about a combination of the two firms.
Financial Terms Not Disclosed
"I don't like the word 'merger' because it sounds like you're putting together two cars," Cox said. "We're joining our practices really."
While financial terms were not revealed, Cox said the partnerships were "commingled on an equal basis."
The firm will do business under the name Baker & McKenzie, which is the world's largest law firm when measured by the number of lawyers--1,154 at 44 offices worldwide. In terms of gross revenue, $196 million for the fiscal year ended last June 30, it ranks first or second, Cox said.
For its part, Macdonald, Halsted & Laybourne was interested in expanding its practice, particularly in the Pacific Basin, but needed the resources of a larger firm to do that, said Charles H. Dick Jr., chairman of the downtown Los Angeles firm's executive committee.
"As we pondered where the next century was going to take us we realized that international commerce was going to be very important in the Los Angeles market and we wanted to be a part of it," he said.
The merger gives Macdonald, Halsted & Laybourne "one phone call access to the entire globe," said Robert H. Philibosian, former Los Angeles County District Attorney and a partner in Macdonald, Halsted & Laybourne. "It's very exciting for all of us."
Macdonald, Halsted & Laybourne was founded in 1918 as Bower, Wright & Macdonald. The company went through several name changes over the years, operating for the last 19 as Macdonald, Halsted & Laybourne.
The firm has 52 lawyers in Los Angeles and 18 in San Diego. Gross revenue for 1988 would have reached about $20 million, Dick said. Baker & McKenzie will send four partners and about six associates from other offices to Los Angeles and San Diego.
Baker & McKenzie came very close to establishing a beachhead in Los Angeles in 1979 when one of the company's founders, Russell Baker, moved to the area and took the state bar examination with the intent of opening an office. But Baker, who was in his late 70s, died before the plan was completed.
"I won't say better late than never," Cox said. "We are a late comer but that's given us a bit of view as to what to do and what not to do."