Altman Weil Merger Report Shows Increase in Frequency
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Summary: The first quarter of this year is already posting 28 mergers and acquisitions, including some AmLaw firms and mega-firms.

Law firm mergers and acquisitions got off to a strong start in 2017, according to Altman Weil MergerLine. The legal consulting group reports 28 combinations that have either taken place or been announced. Of those combinations, two involved AmLaw law firms, five were cross-border firms, and a number were with small US law firm acquisitions.


Altman Weil principal Tom Clay explained, “The law firm merger market really has three distinct tracks right now. There’s an extremely active and competitive market for small law firms, with acquirers of all sizes in the hunt. There’s a growing interest in overseas expansion that is almost exclusively the province of very large law firms. And, there are infrequent but important large mergers that are potential game changers for the two firms and can directly impact the competitive landscape.”

The most notable deal announced this year was between Norton Rose Fulbright and Chadbourne & Parke. Norton Rose, a global law firm, has around 3,700 lawyers while Chadbourne & Parke is based out of New York with 300 lawyers. It is rare for two large firms to merge. In the past ten years, there were only ten such acquisitions involving law firms with over 300 lawyers, and only two of the ten were with New York City-based firms.

The five cross-border acquisitions were done by 1,000 plus lawyer mega-firms. Last year there were eleven cross-border mergers, a record-high. If 2017 keeps the same pace as the first quarter, it will set a new record-high, following the trend of an increasing number of cross-border acquisitions.

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DLA Piper owned two of the announcements. They acquired Danish firm LETT in Copenhagen with 150 lawyers and a 50-lawyer Portuguese firm, ABBC, in Lisbon. Dentons also had two notable acquisitions in this quarter. They expanded in Mexico with a five-lawyer firm in Monterrey called Canales Zambrano. They also entered a new market in the Netherlands. Dentons acquired a 70-lawyer firm, Boekel, in Amsterdam. Norton Rose also acquired Cape Town, South Africa firm Keller Snyman Schelhase with four lawyers.

Generally, acquisitions and mergers involve small firms with twenty or less lawyers. In the first quarter of 2017, 85.7 percent of all combinations were the acquisition of small firms. Most the acquired firms are located in the Middle Atlantic and Southern states with the acquirer located in New York.

The two AmLaw firms with U.S. acquisitions this quarter were Squire Patton Boggs and Smith Gambrell. Squire Patton acquired four-laywer firm, Fernando & Partners, in Palo Alto. Smith Gambrell brought on a seven-lawyer group in New York City called Balber Pickard.

Altman Weil was founded nearly fifty years ago to serve the legal profession. They provide management consulting to law departments, legal vendors and law firms across the globe. Their professional consultants have experience in law, finance, marketing, industry, government, and administration to provide the best service for their clients. MergerLine keeps track of law firm mergers and acquisitions through press releases and media reports.

Do you think 2017 will end up setting an all-time high for the number of mergers and acquisitions in one year? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below.

To learn more law firm mergers and acquisitions, read these articles:


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