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How should law departments respond to a merger by one of its primary firms?

One of your major law firms has announced that it is merging with another firm.  Your first reaction might be, “Why did I read about the merger, instead of being advised in advance?”  Let that flicker die down, and consider two other questions.

The first call should go to the relationship partner, to find out how he or she foresees the merger affecting service to your company.  Will that person remain?  Will that person have control or influence over the associates and paralegals who have been doing the work?  Will the office locations remain?  Will the economic arrangements hold?

The next question should concern conflicts of interest that might scratch the finish on the existing relationship because of the other firm’s clients. At the simple level, the conflicts search will look for direct competitors; the next level considers issue preclusion.  Worst case, the client of the other firm prevails on a conflicts debate and you end up no longer represented.

It will take time to get answers to these two fundamental questions, but until they are satisfactorily met, the relationship needs to be held somewhat in limbo.