Major law firms hold discussion on staff merger


Frank, Bernstein, Conaway & Goldman, a major Baltimore law firm that's been the focus of merger rumors within the legal community, confirmed yesterday that it's talked with one of the city's largest firms about the possibility of combining staffs.

The discussion was held with Piper & Marbury, a 250-lawyer firm that is considered one of the city's best and itself is the product a 1952 merger. A merger of the two would create the largest firm.

Frank, Bernstein is a 110-year-old, 150-lawyer firm.

"There has been one meeting that lasted under an hour," Shale Stiller, the managing partner of Frank, Bernstein, said yesterday. "It was the most preliminary, most exploratory kind of thing. There's no agreement on anything."

Piper's managing partner, Decatur Miller, said that his business was approached by Frank, Bernstein. "I'm really not going to go into any detail," Mr. Miller said. "I would describe it as preliminary, conceptual, exploratory and in no sense a merger discussion. It basically was, 'Was there any reason why we ought to have a merger discussion?' "

Frank, Bernstein, which also has offices in Washington, Bethesda, Columbia and Frederick, had 200 lawyers at the end of 1989. It recently closed a location in Tysons Corner, Va., in what partner Wilbert Sirota called a "de-merger" with the law firm of Stauffer & Dorn.

Mr. Stiller cited strategic considerations for his firm's interest in a merger.

"In order to be a player in the international scene, with our standing international practice and our standing national practice, we ought to be within the next several years a much larger firm," he said. "Players on the national and international scene want to deal with very large law firms.

"It's something that any law firm that has any sense is exploring all the time, but we are not actively considering any specific deal as of now."

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