Allen & Overy has played coy with reports that it is in merger talks with US firm O'Melveny & Myers.

Over the weekend the legal press went into overdrive with rumours that A&O Senior Partner Wim Dejonghe and A&O Managing Partner Andrew Ballheimer had recently held secret talks with top partners at OMM.

The US firm, which is headquartered in Los Angeles, batted away the story: "We have no plans to merge and never have", it said in a statement. But Allen & Overy was more circumspect. "While we have said for several years that we are open to considering a merger with the right partner in the US", said a spokesperson, "we talk to many law firms in many countries all of the time and we do not comment on market speculation and rumours regarding any particular firm".


  If they do it, either way they do it, they will sound like cats on heat about to do it.

From a few angles A&O and OMM are a neat fit. The firms' equity partners are in synch in terms of drawings, with the Magic Circle firm's PEP at £1.5m and O'Melveny's at £1.4m. A&O has long-held ambitions for a US merger, and OMM brings powerhouse US coverage with its NY and DC presence and three offices in California. It is also of sufficient pedigree to take A&O up the aisle, having been cited as a firm of note in both Suits ("I'm choosing between Bratton Gould, Skadden Arps and O'Melveny & Myers") and The Sopranos ("He ruined his six-figure future at O'Melveny & Myers when he blew the Junior Soprano trial").

A merger would create a transatlantic beast of 3,000 lawyers. In revenue terms its £2bn would place it behind only Kirkland & Ellis ($3.2bn) and Latham & Watkins ($3.1bn). As for staff, London's A&O solicitors (like a lot of Magic Circle lawyers) have complained bitterly to RollOnFriday about not being paid at US firm rates. So the possibility of achieving pay parity with the likes of Kirkland by becoming what they envy - staff at a US firm - means some should welcome a merger. On the other hand, OMM's London lawyers may need to strap in. In the RollOnFriday Firm of the Year 2018 survey, one OMM lawyer chuckled, "We get close to top of US market rates for 2/3 of the workload - can't complain!" A work/life balance in step with an MC firm, instead of that of an under-worked London satellite, might be an unwanted change of pace.
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