To Merge or Not to Merge?

A leading mid-sized firm in a second-tier community was being inundated with calls from headhunters and consultants inquiring as to whether or not the firm would like to merge.  The law firm was one of the top two firms in the community, extremely profitable and with an enviable client list.  The firm had not considered combination with other firms as a part of its growth strategy.  However, based upon the number of inquiries it was receiving, activity going on regarding M&A in the marketplace and some partners asking the question as to whether they could consider merger, it was felt they should explore the issue. 

The firm asked Altman Weil to make a candid evaluation of whether or not it should seriously consider any of the merger overtures.  In order to help, we made an objective market-based evaluation of the firm’s practices, its economic condition and performance, market position/image and client base.  We then set forth the options for the firm in terms of possible combinations.  We identified the profile of candidates that might enhance our clients’ market position, economics and the like.  We also set forth the cultural and operating values that appeared to be most important to our client. 

Finally, we collaboratively determined what strategic benefits the firm would require in order to engage in combination discussions, as well as a clear profile of a desirable firm.  During this process, the firm determined that it did not necessarily wish to combine with another firm and confirmed that it was extremely pleased with its current position.  However, they were satisfied that they now had a template or litmus test against which they could assess other firms and respond to inquiries quickly and with a high degree of comfort.  Partners in the firm were pleased that the issue had been addressed in a rigorous and business-like manner and understood the processes to be followed going forward.

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