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Two of Missouri’s biggest law firms - Blackwell Sanders Peper Martin and Husch & Eppenberger - are engaged in preliminary merger talks, both firms confirmed Monday.

The combination of the two would create a firm with 630 attorneys, ranking it second in size among Missouri-based law firms after Bryan Cave, which has about 800 attorneys worldwide.

Husch, which is based in St. Louis and has a 40-attorney office in Kansas City, has about 300 attorneys. It tallied $124 million in revenues last year, according to The American Lawyer, a legal publication.

Blackwell, which is based in Kansas City, has about 330 attorneys and grossed $116.5 million last year. About half the firm’s attorneys are based in Kansas City.

"Merger discussions are in their early stages, but our intentions are serious and the prospects for this strategic combination are exciting," said Dave Fenley, Blackwell chairman. "As with any merger talks, nothing is final until the deal is signed."

Blackwell is best known for its corporate, litigation, transactional, real estate, and labor and employment practices. Husch is best known for its litigation, commercial finance, environmental and bankruptcy practices.

Both firms have offices in multiple cities; the merged firms would have 16 locations in the United States and London.

Husch held preliminary merger discussions last year with Stinson Morrison & Hecker, another large Kansas City firm, but the talks fell through.

Its talks with Blackwell come little more than a year after eight estate planning attorneys left Husch for Lathrop & Gage, leaving a gaping hole in Husch’s estate planning practice in Kansas City.

Not long before that, four estate planning attorneys at Husch jumped ship for Blackwell, one of several instances in recent years of attorneys migrating from one firm to the other.

Although the cross-fertilization of attorneys may make a merger of the two firms easier to pull off, Fenley said that was not the impetus behind the proposed combination. Rather, he said, a consulting firm used by both firms - Hildebrandt International - recommended the marriage.

"They thought it was a very good fit," he said. "A merger would allow us to become more diverse and more sophisticated and would create greater depth. That’s what clients are looking for these days."


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