Law Firm Mergers Increase 79%
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This year has seen a healthy increase in law firm mergers in the U.S., with statistics showing that mergers increased 79% from third quarter 2010. Research reflects that this increase is largely due to small law firms influencing the merger market.

With 14 acquisitions in the third quarter alone, the market is experiencing a comeback and legal consultant, Ward Bower of Altman Weil, Inc., states: “This is the fourth strong quarter in a row we’ve seen, and we’re aware of a lot of activity in the pipeline.”


The third quarter mergers included: Edwards Angell Palmer & Dodge with Wildman, Harrold, Allen & Dixon; Ice Miller and Schottenstein Zox & Dunn; McKool Smith with Hennigan Dorman; and Jones, Walker, Waechter, Poitevent, Carrère & Denègre with Watkins Ludlam Winter & Stennis.

Regional growth also contributed to several firms’ motivating factors. With large firms seeking an increase in regional presence, it makes financial sense to merge with small, local firms. For example, Polsinell Shughart, a 466-lawyer firm based in Kansas City, MO., merged with Denver’s Hensley Kim, gaining 13 lawyers. While three of the major mergers seen in the third quarter were large firms, 11 were mergers with 35 or fewer lawyers.

With the start of the fourth quarter, mergers show no sign of decreasing. Today, Roetzel & Andress announced it has merged with Lewis, Overbeck & Furman, gaining a sought after entry into the Chicago market. The beginning of October saw Oklahoma City’s McAfee & Taft acquire Eldridge Cooper Steichen & Leach, gaining 15 lawyers.  Later this month, Baker & Daniels and Faegre & Benson are expected to announce an official merger, having confirmed in August they were engaging in merger talks. Baker & Daniels is an Indianapolis based firm with 280 lawyers and Faegre & Benson is based in Minneapolis and employs 446 lawyers.

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The overseas legal merger market has also experienced an increase. Ashurst, one of Britain’s largest law firms, announced their intention to merge with Australia’s Blake Dawson by 2014. November is expected to see Britain’s largest law firm merger to date with Clyde & Co merging with Barlow Lyde & Gilbert.

Seeking more of an Asia-Pacific presence, Squire, Sanders & Dempsey merged with Minter Ellison ’s Perth office, a leading Australian firm, and became one of the few U.S. based firms to enter the Australian market.  Mallesons Stephen Jaques, another top contending Australian firm, and King & Wood, a prominent firm in China, could potentially vote on a partnership merger next month.

Altman Weil, Inc., is considered an authority in legal consulting, including mergers and acquisitions worldwide. The consulting company also boasts the Altman Weil Mergerline, which provides detailed tracking information for law firm mergers, including timelines and reports.


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