Volatile Economy Slows Mergers, Creates Opportunities

Newtown Square, PA, October 7, 2008 — There were 14 new law firm mergers and acquisitions announced in the U.S. in the third quarter of 2008 according to Altman Weil MergerLine™, an online tracking service hosted by legal management consultancy Altman Weil, Inc.  Third quarter deals are down from 26 last quarter, but, year to date, 2008 law firm combinations are outpacing 2007 by 58 to 44.

“The volatile economy may have a short-term negative impact on deal-making, causing some law firms to hunker down,” said Altman Weil principal Ward Bower.   “But cash-strong, well-capitalized firms will use the economic challenges faced by others as an opportunity to grow market share through acquisition.”

“Times like these are great opportunities for amalgamators in any industry,” he added.

The two biggest deals announced in the third quarter both involved AmLaw 100 firms expanding their geographic footprints.  Alston & Bird, an 800-lawyer, Atlanta-based law firm acquired 80-lawyer Los Angeles firm, Weston Benshoof.  “Alston really nabbed a prize,” according to Bower.  “California has been the target of merger searches by dozens of major firms, very few with any success.”

Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe, an 1100-lawyer firm based in San Francisco, acquired 50-lawyer German firm, Hölters & Elsing.  

Three additional combinations were acquisitions of specialty boutiques.  Husch Blackwell Sanders added 40-lawyer Chicago intellectual property specialists, Welsh & Katz.  Fox Rothschild also picked up an IP boutique in the Philadelphia firm Synnestvedt & Lechner.  Most recently, Hughes Hubbard & Reed acquired New York City bankruptcy boutique Luskin Stern & Eisler.

The nine remaining deals were smaller combinations, one each in the West, Mid-West and Middle Atlantic states, one multi-regional deal, and five in the South. This follows a trend in 2008 in which one third of all law firm combinations have been Southern regional deals.

“The number of mergers in the southern United States may reflect industry migration and growth in the Sun Belt which in turn increases the need for law firms to expand their practice scope and geographic reach,” noted Bower.   

The complete list of law firm mergers and acquisitions is 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

Go to Altman Weil MergerLine™ to view the complete list of 2008 mergers.

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