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January 30, 2009 10:46 AM

K&L Gates, Bell Boyd to Vote on Merger

Posted by Nate Raymond

UPDATE on 1/30/09 at 2:05 p.m.: The firms have announced that their partnerships approved the merger.

Partners at the law firms of K&L Gates and Chicago's Bell Boyd & Lloyd are scheduled to vote today on whether to merge their two firms.

The firms disclosed their talks in December. If approved, the merger would boost K&L Gates's head count to 1,950 lawyers and expand its footprint to the Chicago market. It also would strengthen the Pittsburgh-based giant's intellectual property and investment management practices.

"There's a high level of confidence on both sides" that the merger will go through, says K&L Gates chairman Peter Kalis.

Combined 2008 revenues for the two firms were approximately $1.09 billion, a K&L Gates spokesman says. K&L Gates grossed $959.5 million in 2008, up 27 percent. That would suggest the 250-lawyer Bell Boyd grossed $130.5 million in 2008, up 1.2 percent. Its 2008 figures have not yet been published.

Neither firm brings bank debt to the table, Kalis says. That in part explains why it's possible to accomplish the merger in a recession, he says, since K&L will not need to borrow to set up new offices or cover costs from the transition.

"We're able to grow in a downturn like other firms can't," Kalis says. "We feel it is a great opportunity for prudent expansion of the platform. And that's what a no-debt policy affords you."

If approved, the merger will be the eighth since Kalis became chairman in 1997. Most recently, on July 1 the firm closed a merger with Kennedy Covington Lobdell & Hickman in Charlotte, N.C.

In addition to Chicago, K&L Gates will pick up a San Diego office. The 25 lawyers employed by Bell Boyd in Washington, D.C., will fold into K&L's office there, Kalis says.

Five Bell Boyd lawyers, including chairman John McCarthy, will join K&L Gates's management committee. Bell Boyd managing partner Nancy Bertoglio will become the administrative partner for what would become K&L Gates's Chicago office.

K&L Gates will retain its current name.

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