Hunton & Williams law firm to merge with Texas firm, creating a top 50 practice

Hunton & Williams, one of the Richmond area’s venerable, large law firms, is planning the largest merger in its more than 100-year history.

Hunton & Williams said Wednesday that it will merge with the Texas law firm Andrews Kurth Kenyon LLP. The merger, expected to become effective April 2, will place the combined firm among the top 50 largest law practices in the United States by headcount and revenue, with a projected annual revenue exceeding $750 million.

The combined firm will be named Hunton Andrews Kurth LLP. It will have more than 1,000 lawyers at 20 offices: 15 in the United States and five internationally. Hunton & Williams currently has about 725 lawyers.

“I think this is a really exciting thing for the city of Richmond, in the sense that you have a firm that was founded here and has a huge presence here that will grow and have additional national presence as a result of this transaction,” said Hunton & Williams partner George C. Howell III.

Hunton & Williams was founded in Richmond in 1901, and Richmond remains the firm’s largest office, with about 200 lawyers.

The combined firm will rival in size Richmond-based McGuireWoods, which has more than 1,000 lawyers in 20 cities in the U.S. and abroad. McGuireWoods has about 250 lawyers in Richmond.

According to a list compiled by American Lawyer, a legal trade publication, Hunton & Williams is currently the 63rd largest U.S. law firm, and Andrews Kurth is No. 111, based on gross revenue. The combined firm will likely be ranked about No. 46.

Howell will remain chairman of the combined firm’s executive committee, which will grow from nine to 14 members with the addition of five Andrews Kurth Kenyon partners.

Wally Martinez, the managing partner of Hunton & Williams who works in the firm’s New York City office, will remain in that role with the combined firm. Robert V. Jewell, managing partner of Andrews Kurth Kenyon, will become managing partner emeritus.

“In terms of practice leadership, we will look at that on a case-by-case basis,” Howell said. “In some cases, there will be co-leaders.”

Howell said the merger will not result in any significant changes for the Hunton & Williams office in Richmond. The firm occupies 10 floors in Riverfront Plaza in downtown Richmond.

However, in some other cities where both firms have practices, the integration plan will involve merging those offices. For instance, both have offices in Washington, New York and the Research Triangle Park area of North Carolina. In addition, both firms have offices in Houston, Dallas and Austin, Texas.

The merger will give Hunton & Williams a practice in oil and gas industry law, where it does not have a significant presence now, Howell said. It will add larger practices for Andrews Kurth Kenyon in areas such as environmental law.

“There are a number of areas where combining the separate practices of the two law firms creates something that is world class and will serve our clients well,” Howell said.

The two firms had been discussing the possibility of a merger for about eight months.

“We have had a long-term strategic objective of having a strong presence in Texas, and Houston in particular,” Howell said, adding that Andrews Kurth Kenyon has two offices in the Houston area in addition to the one there operated by Hunton & Williams.

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