Pace of Law Firm Mergers Up Sharply

Newtown Square, PA, July 8, 2008 — The pace of law firm combinations is up sharply in the U.S. in the second quarter of 2008 according to Altman Weil MergerLine™, an online tracking service hosted by legal management consultancy Altman Weil, Inc.  There were 26 new law firm mergers and acquisitions reported in April, May and June 2008, compared to 18 in the first quarter of the year.

“Even in a deteriorating economy, law firms continue to pursue a growth strategy via merger and acquisition,” says Altman Weil principal Tom Clay.  “And based on our conversations with law firm leaders, we think the pace is unlikely to slow.”

The largest merger this quarter was between K&L Gates, a 1,500-lawyer law firm headquartered in Pittsburgh and Kennedy Covington Lobdell & Hickman, a 175-lawyer firm in Charlotte, NC.  This is the second big deal in 2008 involving a Charlotte law firm. It follows the March acquisition of Charlotte-based Helms Mulliss & Wicker by McGuireWoods LLP which was the largest combination in the first quarter of the year. 

“Charlotte continues to be a target market for expanding national firms, along with Washington DC, and Chicago,” according to Clay.  “But the West Coast, and particularly California, is the elusive prize.  Most major national firms would like to increase their presence out West, but there have been no deals of any size since Kirkpatrick & Lockhart acquired Seattle-based Preston Gates at the end of 2006.”

Two other major combinations were made in the second quarter of 2008.  Troutman Sanders, a 650-lawyer firm based in Atlanta, acquired 100-lawyer, Washington DC-based Ross Dixon & Bell.  Taft Stettinius & Hollister in Cincinnati combined with 110-lawyer Sommer Barnard in Indianapolis to form a new 300+ lawyer firm.  

Of the 26 U.S. law firm combinations logged by MergerLine™ from April to June 2008, the majority were small regional acquisitions: six in the South, five in the Middle Atlantic states, three in the West, one each in the Mid-West and New England.  Two were small multi-regional combinations. 

“It’s important to note the increasing volume of these small deals as an indicator of the overall market’s movement,” notes Clay.  “Very small law firms are realizing that they have to build depth and breadth to stay competitive.”  

K&L Gates made the only cross-border deal this quarter, acquiring 9-lawyer J&J Attorneys-at-law in Taipei.

The complete list of law firm mergers and acquisitions is available online at www.altmanweil.com/MergerLine.

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

Thomas S. Clay
Principal
Altman Weil, Inc.
tsclay@altmanweil.com

Go to Altman Weil MergerLine™ to view the complete list of 2008 law firm mergers.

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