20 Jan 2023

Orrick targets fintech's 'watershed moment' with Washington DC merger

San Francisco giant is combining with financial services specialist Buckley adding 100 lawyers

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San Francisco giant Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe is merging with Washington DC-based law firm Buckley in a deal that promises to create a financial services and fintech powerhouse. 

The deal – set to close by the end of this month – will see around 100 lawyers join Orrick’s roster across the US, creating a firm of 1,150 lawyers with revenue north of $1.4bn. 

It is one of the most eye-catching top tier US law firm mergers of recent years comparable in terms of its impact to West Coast rival Paul Hastings' hire last year of a highly rated 18-partner restructuring team from Stroock & Stroock & Lavan in New York, while earlier this month Morrison Foerster's takeover of Californian IP litigation boutique Durie Tangri and its team of 36 lawyers went live.

Orrick said it was joining forces with Buckley in response to growing client demand for ‘forward-looking’ regulatory and enforcement advice. 

“Our finance and tech clients are innovating in an environment of increasing regulatory and enforcement uncertainty – it’s one of their primary business risks,” said Orrick chair Mitch Zuklie. 

“As these sectors converge, the combined firm will offer valuable regulatory and sector insight to these innovators and their investors who need to see around regulatory corners in pursuing their strategies.” 

Led by co-managing partners Clint Rockwell and Chris Witeck, the Buckley team provides enforcement, litigation, compliance, regulatory and transactional services to financial services institutions and fintech and tech companies, as well as venture capital and private equity funds, investment companies and corporate and individual clients. 

The bulk of the firm’s lawyers are based in Washington DC, though the deal will also bolster Orrick’s teams in New York, Santa Monica and San Francisco and see it add a new office in Chicago. 

Several of its practices are ranked Band 1 by Chambers & Partners, including consumer finance compliance, consumer finance litigation and consumer finance enforcement and investigations. 

Orrick also highlighted the addition of a ‘top-notch’ inside-the-Beltway white collar team and eight first-chair trial lawyers with a strong record in investigations, white collar and class action matters to its financial services litigation platform. 

“It’s a watershed moment as the consumer finance and technology markets converge,” Rockwell said. “This transformation creates a host of novel and precedent-setting regulatory, transactional and litigation risks and opportunities for our clients – and by joining forces with Orrick, we will be able to partner closely with our clients on top-quality solutions.” 

The combined firm will have 180 lawyers in Washington DC, including 75 partners, and will act for many of the leading consumer banks, more than 700 fintech market participants, leading funds and 4,000 emerging companies, as well as 10 of the Fortune 20 tech companies.

Concurrently Orrick will launch its sixth global business unit – strategic advisory and government enforcement. It will bring together 270 lawyers from a range of practice areas including financial and fintech, white collar, privacy and cybersecurity, competition, public policy, trade and technology transactions to offer integrated regulatory and commercial advice. 

“Clients increasingly tell us that synthesising these perspectives into an integrated, market-focused one, and embedding that expertise in our transactional and litigation work, is what enables the Orrick team to deliver value,” said Matthew Gemello, head of Orrick’s global corporate practice. “By organising these skillsets in one team and simultaneously augmenting them with the talent we are adding from Buckley, we are turbocharging our existing service offering to one that is unmatched in the market.”

The combination also sees Orrick gain a set of SaaS and regtech products for its innovation platform, among them a survey engine for financial and lending institutions to generate custom state regulatory surveys and a fixed-fee service to help regulated companies secure state licenses. 

Last year, there were just 46 completed US law firm mergers, well below the ten-year average of 55, according to research by Fairfax Associates.

Of those, there were just two large law firm mergers, where both firms had at least 100 attorneys: between Minneapolis-based Taft Stettinius & Hollister and Detroit-based Jaffe Raitt Heuer & Weiss and DC-based Arent Fox and Chicago's Schiff Hardin.

Fairfax said it expected merger activity to increase given 'the limitations of sustaining growth through organic and lateral additions'.

Last month, German legal title Juve reported that Hogan Lovells was in early merger talks with Shearman & Sterling. A deal would create the world’s third-largest law firm revenue of around $3.6bn. 

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