Thirty-One Law Firm Combinations, Three New 1,000-Lawyer Law Firms

Download a copy of the 2018 Q1 MergerLine charts

The pace of law firm mergers and acquisitions continues unabated in 2018

April 4, 2018 — After a record year in 2017, the pace of US law firm combinations continued unabated in the first quarter of 2018 according to Altman Weil MergerLine.  Thirty-one* deals were announced in January, February and March 2018, including three mergers that will result in three new law firms - each with over 1,000 lawyers. 

Two of the three largest combinations involved Am Law 100 law firms combining with Texas-based Am Law 200 firms.  In February, Hunton & Williams, a Richmond, Virginia based firm with about 700 lawyers entered into a merger agreement with 300-lawyer, Houston-based Andrews Kurth.  At the end of March, 850-lawyer, Milwaukee-based Foley & Lardner announced a combination with Gardere Wynne Sewell, a 230-lawyer law firm headquartered in Dallas.

"Texas has been one of the most desirable in-bound destinations for law firm mergers, acquisitions and lateral hires over the last few years, but big deals like this are rare even in a prime market," says Altman Weil principal Tom Clay.  "Intensifying market competition is making sizeable law firms with hundreds of lawyers receptive to merger offers that they would never have considered a few years ago."

The largest deal of the quarter was the announced merger of Bryan Cave, a 900-lawyer, US law firm based in St. Louis and 650-lawyer, UK-based law firm Berwin Leighton Paisner.  This follows a pattern of US-UK combinations over the last decade, including last year's combination of Womble Carlyle and Bond Dickinson to form the new 1,000-lawyer, transatlantic law firm, Womble Bond.

There were eight additional cross-border combinations announced in the first quarter. Seven of the eight were acquisitions by mega-firm Dentons, which will add a total of 170 new lawyers from law firms in Indonesia, Kenya, Malaysia, Mauritius, Barbados and the Cayman Islands to its 8,100-lawyer roster.  DLA Piper, a 4,000-lawyer international firm based in New York, will acquire a 20-lawyer firm in Santiago, Chile. 

Small acquisitions of firms with twenty or fewer lawyers accounted for 74%* of all combinations in the first quarter of 2018. For these deals, acquirers’ primary focus was the Southern US with Florida as the top in-bound destination. 

Four AmLaw firms made small US acquisitions in the quarter. Archer & Greiner opened a New York City office with seven-lawyer bankruptcy firm DiConza Traurig Kadish. Fisher Phillips grew its Seattle presence with six-lawyer labor & employment boutique, Michael & Alexander. Akerman added six professional liability experts by acquiring Ackerman Law Group in West Palm Beach, Florida. Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney acquired three-lawyer immigration law boutique Weiss Alden & Polo in Miami.

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, 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.  


*This number has been revised to reflect an additional combination in Q1.

 

Contact Information

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