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Officials at the Washington-based Hogan & Hartson law firm and London-based Lovells said Thursday that they are discussing a possible merger, a move that would make the combined entity one of the largest law firms in the world, with 2,500 lawyers and 40 offices.

Both firms specialize in similar practice areas -- mergers and acquisitions, initial public offerings, litigation and other corporate transactions. A merger, officials said, would allow them to increase market share and become a global powerhouse in three of the most important financial markets in the world: the United States, Europe and Asia.

"In order to play at the top tier of the legal profession, you need breadth and depth in all three of these geographic markets, and you need to be at the top of the markets," said Peter Zeughauser, chairman of the Zeughauser Group, which is advising Lovells on the proposed merger. The new firm would "draw more clients and more top talent to service that work," he said.

The management teams at Hogan & Hartson and Lovells are expected to make a unanimous recommendation to the partners of the firms, who have the final say on the proposal, officials said. Documents detailing the merger will be sent to partners next week, officials said. If they approve the proposal in December, as is expected, the merger would go into effect in May.


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