Orrick Pillsbury: A new firm on the horizon.

Should the merger take place between Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe and Pillbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman, there will be a reordering of the top U.S. law firms. The BCS rankings reorder every week after the Saturday college football results are known. So, too, do the BigLaw rankings change every time there is a major merger.

Will this merger succeed where others have failed? Quite possibly. The positives are that both are West Coast based. That means their cultures are more closely aligned than if they had routes on opposite parts of the country. And, I suspect that the top management of both firms, each of which are very capable, understand that integration of the two firms is essential to their success … and thus more likely to pay attention to this process. And, from a marketing perspective, the new firm will have a dominant position in Silicon Valley, a major source of future revenue.

But there are still risks. Power struggles and cultural clashes are not unknown for combining large organizations. Aligning their compensation systems, always a key element, may or may not present a hurdle. Even if they succeed, there are likely to be some break-offs or departures of significance. Despite “advanced merger talks,” the deal is not done until done … Much can happen between now and then.

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