Baker & Hostetler, Woodcock Washburn Partners Approve Merger

, The Legal Intelligencer

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Joseph Lucci
Joseph Lucci

The partnerships of Baker & Hostetler and intellectual property boutique Woodcock Washburn have voted to merge their two firms, making official their signed letter of intention to combine that was announced last month.

Woodcock Washburn policy committee member Joseph Lucci said Wednesday morning that the two partnerships had voted to approve the proposed merger, which is now set to go into effect Jan. 1.

A spokeswoman for Baker & Hostetler said that firm's partnership voted Dec. 10 and Woodcock Washburn voted Monday. She said both votes were unanimous.

The addition of the 68 attorneys at Woodcock Washburn will give 800-lawyer Baker & Hostetler double the IP practice they currently have as well as new offices in Philadelphia, Seattle and Atlanta.

Woodcock Washburn will assume the Baker & Hostetler name but may try to keep its identity in some form for the near future, Lucci said last month.

"Our clients will benefit from being able to tap into the various practice strengths within Baker & Hostetler," Lucci had said in a statement last month. "We'll be a go-to law firm for technology companies of all types. Baker & Hostetler's strength in New York, Southern California, Washington, D.C., and other litigation and technology corridors will enable us to expand the resources we collectively can provide to a wide range of market-leading companies."

Once the merger goes into effect, Steven Rocci of Woodcock Washburn will join Baker & Hostetler's policy committee and Lucci will become managing partner of the Philadelphia office, the firms said. Additional Woodcock Washburn partners will have leadership roles in the combined firm's IP practice, they said.

While Woodcock Washburn has seen some partner defections over the last few years, the firm does not appear to have lost any attorneys since the intent to merge became public. The firm still has the same 68 lawyers on its website.

Lucci said last month that he gets the sense all of the attorneys at Woodcock Washburn are welcome at Baker & Hostetler, but said he couldn't say whether they would all choose to join the combined firm.

As of last month, Lucci said there are no plans for staff changes at Woodcock Washburn to address any redundancies that may exist from the merger, but he had said "going forward, it's hard to say."

With roots in Ohio dating back to 1916, Baker & Hostetler has grown to around 800 lawyers across 11 offices throughout the United States. The firm has offices in Cincinnati, Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio; Chicago; New York; Washington, D.C.; Denver; Houston; Orlando, Fla.; and Los Angeles and Costa Mesa, Calif.

"As part of our overall growth strategy, we have talked about expanding in major markets where we do not currently have a presence," Baker & Hostetler executive partner Steven Kestner said in a statement last month. "Woodcock Washburn's offices place us in three important new cities where their attorneys have strong, established client relationships."

As general practice firms have looked to gobble up IP boutiques over the years, Woodcock Washburn has often been at the center of merger talks and rumors but no deals were inked. The firm has long been a fixture in Pennsylvania's legal circles as one of the oldest, and at times largest, stand-alone IP boutiques in the country.

Lucci had said Woodcock Washburn has been approached by a number of firms over the years. He said the Baker & Hostetler merger was too good to pass up, noting the firms have similar cultures, including a "collegial and collaborative work environment."

Baker & Hostetler has seen a steady rise in revenue and profits over the last two years, thanks in part to its work representing partner Irving Picard, the trustee for the liquidation of Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities. According to Legal affiliate The American Lawyer, Baker & Hostetler saw its PPP grow more than 10 percent in 2012 to the $930,000 mark. Its gross revenue rose 16 percent last year to $510.5 million and its revenue per lawyer grew 5 percent to $630,000.

One source familiar with Baker & Hostetler said the firm's numbers were bolstered by the Madoff work and are an "enhanced snapshot" of the firm's true rate and profit structure. The source, who described Baker & Hostetler as more of a Midwest, middle-market firm, said it could support the various aspects of an IP practice and the resultant rates that come with them more so than could a larger firm.

Lucci said last month that the reason many of Woodcock Washburn's previous merger discussions didn't come to fruition was because the firm would only merge with a firm that was willing to do the patent prosecution work along with the patent litigation.

"For a number of firms, that is something that crosses them off the list," Lucci had said.

When asked about the firms' financial compatibility, Lucci said both firms were satisfied that the numbers worked. He also said he doesn't expect Woodcock Washburn attorneys' rates to change post-merger. Lucci said he found the low number of conflicts between Woodcock Washburn and Baker & Hostetler "amazing" given the size of the deal.

Gina Passarella can be contacted at 215-557-2494 or at gpassarella@alm.com. Follow her on Twitter @GPassarellaTLI.

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