Howrey is reportedly mulling a tie-up with Chicago-based intellectual property (IP) specialist Winston & Strawn and the top bosses of the two law firms are in discussions whether a merger would make sense.

Howrey vice chairman Sean Boland are reportedly in discussions with Winston managing partner Thomas Fitzgerald, according to Legal Week.

While Winston is keen on expanding its global IP and antitrust practice, Howrey has seen a massive exodus of lawyers in recent times.

According to the Chicago Business Report, Winston wants to hire Howrey lawyers and is making offers to a number of them. It is also exploring a merger with the Washington, D.C.-based law firm that specializes in antitrust, litigation and patent work.

Industry watchers feel a merger between the two firms would be difficult because of the practice-area conflicts between them and the exodus of partners from Howrey that's well underway.

Over the past year or so, more than 60 attorneys or nearly 10 percent of Howrey's lawyers have left the firm, including Gary Bendinger, the New York-based co-chair of its litigation practice who joined Sidley Austin in December.

London managing partner and one of the leading patent litigators in the UK, Mark Hodgson also left Howrey to join Field Fisher Waterhouse.

Others who left Howrey include Trevor Soames, who was the managing partner of Howrey's Brussels office, and IP expert Henry Bunsow, who served as vice-chairman at Howrey. Bunsow left Howrey to join Dewey & LeBoeuf.

Howrey's European partners Denis Monegier du Sorbier and Willem Hoyng also left the firm to create their own boutique firm Hoyng Monegier, citing client conflicts and poor work-flow with the US side of the firm. Joining them were European IP head Benoit Strowel, Amsterdam managing partner Bart van den Broek, Brussels IP head Carl de Meyer and Amsterdam partner Joris van Manen.