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Riordan Law Firm to Be Acquired

Practice founded by the former mayor is to be merged into Bingham Mccutchen of Boston.

June 25, 2003|Elizabeth Kelly | Times Staff Writer

Riordan & McKinzie, a boutique law firm founded in 1975 by former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan, said Tuesday that it would be acquired by Boston-based Bingham McCutchen, one of the largest legal firms in the United States.

The 60-lawyer Riordan & McKinzie, which specializes in private-equity transactions, had been looking for a merger partner for some time. It will be absorbed into Bingham McCutchen, which posted 2002 revenue of $426 million and has offices in Northern and Southern California, New York, Washington and London. The name Riordan & McKinzie will disappear.

The principals would not disclose the terms of the merger, though both sides described it as a combining of operations. "It's a merger in the truest sense of the term," said Rick Welch, Riordan & McKinzie's chairman, who will be a partner at the combined firm.

Welch said Riordan & McKinzie had been exploring joining with another firm to bulk up its staff and resources and had entered negotiations with several firms before deciding to combine practices with Bingham McCutchen.

"We have thought about this for a long time," Welch said. "Bingham offers our clients the resources, depth and broad, specialized expertise that will complement our own strengths."

The firms will consolidate their L.A. offices into one with 120 attorneys, and Riordan & McKinzie's Costa Mesa and Westlake Village offices will become Bingham branches, adding to the firm's nine other offices on both coasts and abroad. Some administrative positions will be eliminated, Welch said.

"Riordan McKinzie truly is the leading corporate boutique in Southern California," said Jay Zimmerman, chairman of Bingham McCutchen. "And in today's world it is very difficult to find such a strong firm of its size that is so well connected to its community."

Many of these connections are the work of the former mayor, who will continue to be a partner and rainmaker for the firm although it will no longer bear his name.

"It's a great marriage of the firms," Riordan said. "I will more or less be on call for things, which I have been consistently."

Riordan, who served as mayor from 1993 to 2001, has announced plans to launch a daily newspaper in Los Angeles and is working on forming an anti-terrorism think tank.

Acquiring Riordan & McKinzie is the latest transaction for Bingham McCutchen. The firm was formed last July through the merger of century-old Bingham Dana of Boston and San Francisco-based McCutchen, Doyle, Brown & Enersen. Bingham Dana had initiated the growth spurt in the mid-1990s by acquiring a number of smaller firms in the Northeast. Since 1995, Bingham's roster has grown from fewer than 200 lawyers to more than 800, and it is now the 24th-largest firm in the U.S.

As Bingham has grown, the national rate of law firm mergers has slowed. In the first quarter of 2003, at least 18 mergers and acquisitions involving U.S. law firms were completed, according to Hildebrandt International, a professional services consulting firm that tracks law firm mergers. That was down 18% from a year earlier.

Travers Wood, a partner in the Los Angeles branch of 1,700-lawyer White & Case who several years ago headed a small practice that merged into an international firm, said most law mergers today are driven by a desire to expand nationally or globally or by a perceived synergy in practice areas.

Such mergers may be, in large part, inevitable, because of the complexity of doing business in an increasingly interconnected world.

"Large firms that represent multinational businesses must become larger," Wood said, "or else they won't be able to handle the matters that those businesses need them to handle."

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