Law Firm Mergers Up; Small Deals Predominate
Newtown Square, PA, July 6, 2011 — There were 12 law firm mergers and acquisitions announced in the United States in the second quarter of 2011, according to Altman Weil MergerLine. The total number of 2011 combinations at the mid-year point is 28, up 47% compared to the first half of 2010.
Ten of the twelve deals reported in April, May and June 2011 were acquisitions of law firms with 20 or fewer lawyers. The other two deals were acquisitions of firms under 50 lawyers.
This continues a trend toward smaller deals that emerged during the recent recession. In 2007, 63% of mergers involved firms of 20 or less, according to MergerLine data. In 2011 that number has jumped to 86%.
"We see a couple of things driving this shift," said Altman Weil principal Eric Seeger. "In the most desirable acquisition markets, there are few prime law firm targets left. Many mid-sized firms have either already merged, have decided to stay independent, or have spun off from larger firms and don't want to go back, so demand is outpacing supply in many markets."
"However, we do see interest among smaller firms in being acquired, driven largely by demographics. A lot of smaller firms are finding themselves with aging leaders and rainmakers who are getting ready to retire. Being acquired can be a good succession plan for a firm in that situation."
Among the second quarter’s combinations were several in which large firms expanded their geographic reach with small regional acquisitions. New York City’s Kelley Drye acquired 15-lawyer Los Angeles firm, White O’Connor Fink & Brenner. Atlanta-based Fisher & Phillips added Millisor & Nobil, a 19-lawyer Cleveland firm. Blank Rome picked up 5-lawyer Abrams Scott & Bickley in Houston; and, Saul Ewing expanded into Boston with the acquisition of 7-lawyer Dionne & Gass.
Womble Carlyle, based in Winston-Salem, NC, beefed up its southern presence with the acquisition of 44-lawyer, Charleston SC firm, Buist Moore Smythe & McGee.
In addition to the 12 new law firm combinations, the merger of 3,500-lawyer global law firm DLA Piper and its Australian affiliate, 600-lawyer DLA Phillips Fox announced in the first quarter of the year was finalized on May 1, 2011.
The complete list of law firm mergers and acquisitions announced to date in 2011 as well as an archive from prior years and a four-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.