Law firms Squire Sanders, Patton Boggs agree to merge

By Casey Sullivan and David IngramReuters

The law firms Squire Sanders and Patton Boggs said on Friday they had agreed to combine, striking a deal that is expected to save Patton Boggs from growing financial strain.

In a news release, the two firms said they would begin operating under the name Squire Patton Boggs effective June 1.

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Partners at 1,300-lawyer Squire Sanders voted on Friday, after 300-lawyer Patton Boggs, known for its lobbying presence in Washington, D.C., had earlier approved the combination.

The combination was held up on Thursday because of concerns within Squire Sanders over the role Patton Boggs played in a legal battle between Chevron Corp and a group of Ecuadorean villagers, Patton Boggs managing partner Edward Newberry said.

Starting in 2010, Patton Boggs had advised the villagers on a plan to enforce an $18 billion pollution judgment against Chevron that the oil giant said was obtained through fraud.

This week, a lawyer for the villagers asked a judge to revisit a May 7 settlement in which Patton Boggs expressed its regret for its involvement in the matter and agreed to pay Chevron $15 million. Newberry said that Squire Sanders needed time to evaluate the latest development, and after halting a vote on Thursday, Squire Sanders resumed voting later in the day.

The two law firms had been in merger talks since at least February.

Revenue at Patton Boggs dropped by 12 percent from 2012 to 2013, to $278 million, according to figures in an internal memo obtained by Reuters in January, and the firm hired restructuring advisers.

(Editing by Noeleen Walder and Grant McCool)