2011 Rebound for US Law Firm Merger Market

Newtown Square, PA, January 5, 2012 — There were 60 law firm mergers and acquisitions announced in the United States in 2011.  The annual total was up 54% from 2010 and at the highest level since 2008, according to Altman Weil MergerLine.  Seventeen new combinations were announced in the fourth quarter, including three of the biggest deals of the year.

“The momentum for law firm mergers built throughout 2011 and the year ended very strongly,” said Altman Weil principal Ward Bower.  “We think the trend toward larger deals will continue and the pace of mergers could accelerate in 2012.” 

There were five combinations announced in 2011 that involved the acquisition of a law firm with 100 or more lawyers. The biggest of these was the merger of 3,500-lawyer global law firm DLA Piper and its Australian affiliate DLA Phillips Fox, a 600-lawyer firm headquartered in Sydney.

Over the summer, Edwards Angell Palmer & Dodge, a 500-lawyer Boston-based firm acquired 160-lawyer Chicago firm Wildman Harrold.  In October, Faegre & Benson, headquartered in Minneapolis, announced its intention to merge with Indianapolis-based Baker & Daniels to form a law firm with nearly 800 lawyers.  

The year closed with two big announcements in December. Bryan Cave, a 900-lawyer firm based in St. Louis, announced the acquisition of 159-lawyer Denver based Holme Roberts & Owen.  Bingham McHale, an Indianapolis-based law firm said it would merge with Louisville-based Greenebaum Doll & McDonald to form a new 250-lawyer firm.

Other noteworthy combinations included the mid-western merger of Ice Miller and Schottenstein Zox; Washington DC firm Arnold & Porter’s acquisition of Howard Rice in San Francisco; and, two southern tie-ups – Jones Walker with Watkins Ludlam, and Womble Carlyle with Buist Moore.

The balance of 2011 law firm mergers and acquisitions included ten deals (17%) in which the acquired firm had between 21 and 100 lawyers, and 45 deals (75%) that involved the acquisition of small law firms with 20 or fewer lawyers. 

The number of cross-border mergers involving US firms declined in 2011 after increases in 2009 and 2010.  However, there was significant international activity in other markets including the year-end merger of China’s King & Wood with Australian firm Mallesons forming an 1,800-lawyer Asia-Pacific firm.  Additionally, UK firm Norton Rose acquired 300-lawyer Canadian firm Macleod Dixon, its second Canadian acquisition in twelve months.      

“The 2012 law firm market is global,“ said Ward Bower.  “We expect to see new US-UK and UK-Canada combinations this year as firms seek to serve an increasingly global client base.” 

The complete list of 2011 law firm mergers and acquisitions as well as an archive from prior years and a five-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.

Contact Information

Ward Bower
Principal
Altman Weil, Inc.
wbower@altmanweil.com

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