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Law Firm Mergers Ramp Up in Second Quarter
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Law firm merger activity picked up during the second quarter of 2010, with a total of ten completed mergers involving U.S.-based law firms, according to Hildebrandt Baker Robbins, leading consultants to the legal industry.

That marks a rise in activity from the four completed mergers in the first quarter of 2010, and the nine completed mergers in the second quarter of 2009. Two additional mergers have been announced which are slated to be completed during the third quarter of 2010.

Despite the pickup in activity in the second quarter, merger activity year-to-date still lags that of 2009 by a wide margin with 14 mergers in the first half of 2010 compared with 42 in the first half of 2009.

  
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Lisa Smith, head of Hildebrandt Baker Robbins’ Law Firm Strategy and Merger practices, said, “As we predicted, merger activity is back on track after three very quiet quarters. We are seeing significant interest in combinations, including a dramatic increase in interest in cross-border transactions. We expect the second half of the year to continue to show increased merger activity.”

The largest merger involving at least one U.S. firm in the second quarter of 2010 was the cross-border merger between Hogan & Hartson and the U.K.’s Lovells. This trans-Atlantic combination is the second largest merger completed since Hildebrandt Baker Robbins began tracking law firm mergers, the largest being the 2005 merger between London’s DLA and Chicago’s Piper Rudnick Gray Cary.

The next-largest pairings in the second quarter were New Jersey law firm McElroy, Deutsch, Mulvaney & Carpenter and Connecticut-based Pepe & Hazard, and New Orleans’ Jones, Walker, Waechter, Poitevent, Carrere & Denegre with Birmingham’s Walston Wells & Birchall.

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The average size of the smaller firm in second-quarter U.S. mergers was 164 attorneys, compared with the average size of 14 in the second quarter of 2009. The high average figure for the quarter was driven by the Hogan-Lovells merger, with both firms having well over a thousand attorneys each. Three of the mergers involved an acquisition of more than 20 lawyers.

Globally, nine mergers were completed in the second quarter of 2010 involving at least one non-U.S.-based law firm. The largest of these was again the Hogan-Lovells merger. Other large international mergers during the quarter included the pairing of offshore law firms Mourant du Feu & Jeune and Ozannes, and the merger of Spanish law firms Vialegis and Dutilh Abogados. There was one intra-Canadian merger: Atlantic Canada’s Cox & Palmer with Halifax firm Goldberg Thompson.



Six international mergers are currently scheduled to be completed during the third quarter of 2010, including the cross-border pairing of Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal LLP with U.K. firm Denton Wilde Sapte to create SNR Denton.



 

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