Friday, September 17, 2004

Press Picks Up on Fish-Ropes Merger Talks: Boston's Ropes & Gray has courted IP boutique Fish & Neave for years. And in mid-September, Fish & Neave spokesperson James Haggerty confirmed the two were again in "extremely preliminary merger talks." But this time, Ropes might land the catch.

Since 2003, 12 partners have left the 160-lawyer Fish & Neave to join expanding IP practices at Latham & Watkins, Kirkland & Ellis, Quinn Emanuel Urquhart Oliver & Hedges, King & Spalding, and Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati. At least 20 associates have left, too.

Several IP boutiques have closed in recent years, including New York's Pennie & Edmonds, Los Angeles's Lyon & Lyon, and San Jose's Skjerven Morrill. During the past year, a host of Fish lawyers have looked around, says Anna Tsirulik, managing director of Major, Hagen & Africa's New York office.

Is the 126-year-old firm (which counseled Thomas Edison) going the way of the phonograph? Reached before the merger talks became public, managing partner Jesse Jenner said no. "We are recognized in most quarters as being the leading IP firm, if not on everybody's list of the top three or five," he said. Jenner couldn't be reached for comment on the Ropes & Gray talks, but in earlier interviews he conceded the firm would consider a merger. "We would be crazy not to consider anything that would enhance our practice," he said.

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