Hunton & Williams to Merge with Andrews Kurth Kenyon

The list of Big Law mergers—which reached a record number last year—has added two more bold-faced names.

Hunton & Williams and Andrews Kurth Kenyon announced Feb. 21 that partners at both firms voted to combine into a 1,000-lawyer firm.

The deal is effective April 2. The new firm will be called Hunton Andrews Kurth.

Wally Martinez, managing partner of Hunton & Williams, and Bob Jewell, managing partner of Andrews Kurth Kenyon, pointed to several factors that brought the firms together in a joint interview.

One major benefit was obvious: Virginia-based Hunton, with 725 lawyers in 19 offices, has a longstanding environmental and energy practice, playing a major role in legislation on clean air and water and funding to control hazardous waste sites. Notably, it has defended the power industry in challenging U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s regulations to reduce emissions of greenhouse gas.

Meanwhile, Andrews Kurth, a Texas firm with 300 lawyers, has an energy practice focused on the oil and gas industry, with more transactional lawyers than litigators.

“A number of our clients have spoken up about that,” Jewell said.

Both Jewell and Martinez commented on the complementary nature of the two practices, where Hunton is best known for its legal services work for the power industry, and Andrews Kurth for oil and gas.

Overall, both firms shared 20 top clients out of each of their respective lists of 100 most important clients, they said, although declined to share names.

Another industry sector where both firms are active is finance. Clients for Hunton have included Bank of America, Wells Fargo and Capital One, and Andrews Kurth has represented US Bancorp, Cerberus Capital Management, and PNC Bank, according to Bloomberg Law’s Litigation Analytics.

In terms of geography, the newly combined firm will have 300 lawyers in four Texas offices, more than 200 lawyers in Richmond and more than 300 lawyers in both New York and Washington, the firm said.

Martinez and Jewell hinted at possible future geographic expansion, but stressed that they would focus on integrating both firms’ lawyers.

“We are likely to be making an announcement about some further expansion in the very near future,” said Martinez, who declined to reveal the plans but noted they have been coordinated with leadership at both firms.

From a financial standpoint, at least, the two firms share similar profits.

According to the most recent available financial data from The American Lawyer, Hunton is the larger firm, grossing $541 million in revenue in 2016 with $1.1 million profits per partner, and 661 lawyers as of that time. Meanwhile, Andrews Kurth was smaller but slightly more profitable, with $289 million in revenue and $1.26 million in profits per partner.

But the financial figures weren’t enough to sell some partners on the deal.

After news of the two firms’ merger talks leaked last fall, several teams of lawyers splintered off from Andrews Kurth in Houston and Dallas, joining competitors, such as DLA Piper, White & Case, and Katten Muchin Rosenman.

“Some folks left that I think could have prospered here,” said Martinez. “It’s unfortunate, but folks have their own reasons.”

Asked about the choice of firm name, Martinez said that neither side found it controversial to chop off Kenyon and Williams.

Instead, Martinez played down the significance: “I was told by colleagues at similar firms that that was going to be one of the toughest things, but there wasn’t much controversy,” he said.

People knew the firms to go by the shorthand of Andrews Kurth and Hunton anyway, Jewell said.

The merger was brokered by Kent Zimmermann of Zeughauser Group, who introduced Martinez to Jewell over dinner at a Tex Mex restaurant in Houston last June.

Martinez will serve as managing partner of the combined firm and Jewell will become managing partner emeritus.

Current Hunton Executive Committee Chairman George C. Howell III will remain chairman of the combined firm’s executive committee, the firm said. The committee will be comprised of five legacy Andrews Kurth Kenyon partners and nine legacy Hunton & Williams partners.

Contact the reporter on this story: Casey Sullivan at csullivan@bloomberglaw.com.

Contact the editor on this story: Tom Taylor at ttaylor@bloomberglaw.com.