OASS it isn't. A&O Shearman it is.
The new firm will officially be called ‘Allen Overy Shearman Sterling’, which no-one will use as it's a mouthful, and the shortened 'A&O Shearman' is already the go-to name.
The merger, set to be complete by May 2024, will make the transatlantic beast the world's third largest integrated law firm, with around 3,950 lawyers and 800 partners across 48 offices and combined revenues of approximately $3.5 billion.
The deal follows months of discussions, but was finally approved with a resounding 99% of the votes cast at each firm giving it the thumbs up.
A source told RollOnFriday that one of the issues pored over concerned Shearman having "significant pension liabilities attached to partners in the US, who enjoyed gold-plated pensions”.
Over the summer, in order to get the merger over the line, Shearman was in negotiations with some of its ex-partners to reduce what they would receive under the pension scheme.
The two firms had to agree on the size of the pension liability that the combined firm would take on from Shearman’s unfunded scheme, according to a report in Financial News in July. The issue has now been resolved, with the modifications required for the merger's retirement and pension programmes completed.
For Shearman, which has its headquarters in New York, one benefit will be gaining access to a “dramatically expanded ‘rest of the world’ offering across practice areas”, while the Magic Circle firm will receive “increased board-level recognition and expanded access to a corporate client base in the U.S.”, said the firms in a statement earlier this year.
The Magic Circle firm has long sought a significant US platform to complement its outposts in New York, Boston, Silicon Valley, San Francisco and Washington D.C.. It suffered a setback in 2019 when merger plans with O'Melveny & Myers flopped after 18 months of talks.
A&O has now succeeded where plenty of other UK firms have failed. Ashurst aborted attempts to hook up with Sidley Austin, Fried Frank, and Latham & Watkins (not all at once), before finding love with Australian firm Blake Dawson, while Freshfields and Debevoise wooed each other many moons ago, only for things to go cold.
"This is a historic moment for both firms and our profession," said Wim Dejonghe, A&O's Senior Partner. "We are delighted that our partners have voted so resoundingly in favor* of this merger, which is a transformational step for the legal industry."
"We have long admired Shearman & Sterling for its outstanding reputation, talent, and client base, and we are confident that together we will create a truly exceptional global firm that will serve our clients’ needs in an increasingly complex and dynamic world," added Dejonghe.
Adam Hakki, Senior Partner at Shearman & Sterling said: "A&O Shearman will be a firm unlike any other in the world, built to achieve exceptional outcomes for our clients through an intentional focus on quality, excellence, and collaboration. We are creating a new industry leader, with truly global capabilities and we are excited for what is to come."
Other UK firms which pulled off transatlantic couplings include Lovells with Hogan & Hartson, Norton Rose Fulbright with Chadbourne & Parke, Eversheds with Sutherland Asbill & Brennan, DLA with Piper Rudnick, BLP with Bryan Cave, and Bond Dickinson with Womble Carlyle.
* An early win for the US side seems to be the new firm's adoption of American spelling.