Law Firm Merger Market on Record-Breaking Pace

Download a copy of the 2018 Q3 MergerLine charts

79 combinations have been announced in the first three quarters of 2018

October 2, 2018 — There were 27 US law firm mergers and acquisitions announced in the third quarter of 2018, and there have been 79 deals year-to-date, according to Altman Weil MergerLine.  This is the greatest number of combinations ever reported in the third quarter of the year as well as the highest cumulative total for the first three quarters.

"Almost every law firm we work with is actively considering its merger options in 2018, and some large firms are becoming serial acquirers," says Altman Weil principal Eric Seeger. "But while large firms are increasingly aggressive about growth, we think an underlying shift in attitude at small and mid-sized firms - driven by both threat and opportunity - is what is pushing the law firm merger market into record-breaking territory."

The largest deal announced in the third quarter of 2018 was the combination of 816-lawyer, Philadelphia-based Fox Rothschild and 131-lawyer Smith Moore Leatherwood based in Greensboro, North Carolina. The combination represents a significant southeastern expansion for Fox Rothschild, which will add six new office locations in North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia. It will be their third acquisition in 2018.

In another big combination, 658-lawyer, Washington, DC-based Venable announced that it would acquire New York City intellectual property law firm, Fitzpatrick Cella Harper & Scinto, adding 96 lawyers and more than doubling its headcount in New York.

Some of the largest law firms continued to set their sights outside of the US. DLA Piper made its second cross-border acquisition of 2018, acquiring 60-lawyer Delacour in Copenhagen.  Littler announced they would acquire 20-lawyer employment firm Reliance in Brussels, their second European acquisition this year.  Dentons made its eighth international acquisition (and ninth overall) in 2018, adding 33-lawyer Larrain Rencoret Urzua in Santiago.

A number of AmLaw 200 firms made small US acquisitions in the quarter, all apparently driven by the pursuit of particular practice specialties.  Stinson Leonard Street acquired Senniger Powers, a 27-lawyer IP firm in St. Louis (their second acquisition in 2018).  Squire Patton Boggs also added an IP firm, 3-lawyer Singularity LLP in Redwood City, California.  Holland & Knight picked up international tax specialists, Sharp Partners, a 6-lawyer firm in Tampa, Florida.  Womble Bond added 2-lawyer litigation boutique, Treanor Pope & Hughes in Towson, Maryland. Michael Best acquired 7-lawyer start-up specialists, Modus Law in Boulder, Colorado.  Brownstein Hyatt bolted on Schwartz Flansburg, a 5-lawyer Las Vegas bankruptcy litigation firm.

Of the 27 law firms targeted for acquisition in July, August and September, 22 (81%) were small firms with between 2 and 20 lawyers. The top geographic region targeted by acquirers in the quarter was the Mid-Atlantic, including New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Maryland firms. Three of the five larger acquisitions were of non-US firms in Denmark, Belgium and Chile.

The complete list of law firm mergers and acquisitions announced to date in 2018 as well as a summary of 2017 deals are available online at www.altmanweil.com/MergerLine.   A retrospective report and analysis of MergerLine data since its inception, Ten Years of Law Firm Mergers and Acquisitions: 2007-2016, was released in March 2017 and is available to download at www.altmanweil.com/AWML10.

About Altman Weil MergerLine™
Altman Weil MergerLine™ logs law firm combinations as they are reported by media outlets and in press releases; links the user to the original news stories; and compiles key statistics on each deal.  The online service also includes an archive of past mergers and a section of commentary and analysis.  Learn more at www.altmanweil.com/MergerLine.
    
About Altman Weil
Founded in 1970, Altman Weil, Inc. is dedicated exclusively to the legal profession.  It provides management consulting services to law firms, law departments and legal vendors worldwide.   The firm is independently owned by its professional consultants, who have backgrounds in law, industry, finance, marketing, administration and government.   More information on Altman Weil can be found at www.altmanweil.com.

Contact Information

Eric A. Seeger
Principal
Altman Weil, Inc.
eseeger@altmanweil.com  
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