Law Firm Merger Mania on Hold in 2009

Newtown Square, PA, January 6, 2010 — There were 53 new law firm mergers and acquisitions announced in the United States in 2009 according to Altman Weil MergerLine, down 24% from the prior year.   Seventy-nine percent of all new deals involved the acquisition of small law firms with 20 or fewer lawyers.

“This reflects law firms’ cautious approach last year, as most firms spent 2009 focused on internal issues of cost cutting, layoffs, and compensation adjustments in response to the Great Recession,” observed Altman Weil principal Ward Bower.  “But we expect to see an uptick in 2010 as deals currently on hold pending 2009 year-end results are finalized.”

The biggest deal announced in 2009 was the merger of Britain’s Lovells LLP with Washington DC-based Hogan & Hartson.  When it is finalized in May 2010, the merger will be the second largest law firm combination ever accomplished, forming a 2,500-lawyer global firm. 

“The Hogan Lovells merger is going to rekindle interest in trans-Atlantic mergers and acquisitions in 2010,” according to Bower. 

Two other significant combinations occurred in 2009.  In January, K&L Gates, a 1700-lawyer international law firm headquartered in Pittsburgh announced the acquisition of Bell Boyd and Lloyd with 250 lawyers in Chicago, San Diego and Washington DC.  Boston-based Bingham McCutchen strengthened its Washington and New York offices with the addition of 120-lawyer McKee Nelson in August.     

The balance of 2009 combinations involved small law firms, including 42 acquisitions of firms with 20 or fewer lawyers.  Forty percent of 2009 law firm combinations were multi-regional or cross-border deals, up from 21.5% in 2008. 

“Rather than simple mergers of scale, more firms focused on geographic scope to gain access to new markets in 2009,” Bower commented.  “This acquisition strategy may be driven by the need to better serve clients and stay competitive as convergence programs are instituted in more corporate law departments.”

The complete list of 2009 law firm mergers and acquisitions as well as an archive from prior years and a three-year trend summary are 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.

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Contact Information

Ward Bower
Altman Weil, Inc.
(610) 886-2021
wbower@altmanweil.com

Go to Altman Weil MergerLine to view the complete list of 2009 law firm mergers.

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