According to a survey by consulting firm Hildebrandt International, US law firm mergers rose slightly in 2008 over 2007; and experts are predicting the trend will increase in 2009 due to the economic meltdown.
In 2008, 55 law firm mergers and acquisitions were completed, up from 54 in 2007. But only 13 days into this year, 20 mergers have been completed.
Law firm mergers have generally been on the rise since 2004, when there were 49; in 2006, 59 mergers occurred.
The largest merger of 2008 was in January, when Kansas City, Missouri’s Blackwell Sanders absorbed St. Louis’ Husch & Eppenberger. The resulting firm, Husch Blackwell Sanders, has a headcount of 630 attorneys.
The second-largest merger was between Chicago’s Mayer Brown and Hong Kong’s Johnson Stokes & Master. Other significant mergers included: K&L Gates and Kennedy Covington Lobdell & Hickman as well as Hughes & Luce; McGuireWoods and Helms Mulliss & Wicker; and Reed Smith and Richards Butler.
The largest of the firm mergers that have already taken place in 2009 are between Bryan Cave and Atlanta’s Powell Goldstein, followed by Bradley Arant Rose & White and Boult, Cummings, Conners & Berry.
The Hildebrandt survey also found that 244 new law firm branch offices opened last year. One hundred and twnmety were in the United States, while 124 were outside the country.