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Bingham McCutchen partners approve merger

Partners at the struggling Boston law firm Bingham McCutchen LLP agreed to merge with a Philadelphia firm in a vote earlier this week.

Bingham McCutchen, one of the city’s most prominent firms, would not comment on the vote. The merger still be must be approved by partners of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP, which agreed this fall to acquire Bingham. It was unclear when that vote will occur.

Morgan, Lewis declined to comment. The Bingham McCutchen vote was first reported by The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday.

Once finalized, the merger would create a firm with about 2,000 attorneys.

Bingham McCutchen has more than a century of history in Boston, having represented maritime companies, big banks, and technology giants. Its clients include Oracle Corp. and Bank of America Corp. But the firm has struggled in recent years as revenues have declined, money-making partners have departed, and the costs of its rapid expansion took a toll. The firm even explored the possibility of seeking bankruptcy protection, although Steven Browne, the managing partner, said that was a remote possibility.

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Bingham McCutchen performed well during the recession when financial institutions, facing new regulatory pressures, needed their advice. That work, however, dried up as new rules were adopted and the financial crisis passed.

The firm also faced hefty expenses. Last year, it opened a $22.5 million facility in Kentucky, moving several secretarial, accounting, and information technology positions from Boston to the South, where rents and salaries are cheaper.

It also spent millions to add top lawyers to its roster, merging with 10 other firms in less than 15 years while offering new partners generous contract guarantees. The contracts fostered divisions with existing partners who did not have deals that were as lucrative.


Deirdre Fernandes can be reached
at deirdre.fernandes@globe.com.