Law Firms Continue to Merge in Tumultuous First Quarter of 2009

Newtown Square, PA, April 7, 2009 — There were 24 new law firm mergers and acquisitions reported in the U.S. in the first quarter of 2009, according to Altman Weil MergerLine.  Fourteen new deals were reported in January 2009, three in February and seven in March.  An additional twelve deals reported in 2008 became effective in January 2009.

“The bulk of these deals were in the works in 2008,” said Altman Weil principal Tom Clay, who advises law firms on mergers and acquisitions.  “As law firms got a look at how 2009 was shaping up, the activity definitely slowed down but it didn’t stop.”

“Well-capitalized firms with clear strategic goals are continuing to look for tasty morsels to acquire.  There’s no reason to think that will change,” he added.

The largest merger, and only big deal announced in the quarter, was between K&L Gates, a 1,750-lawyer international firm headquartered in Pittsburgh, PA and Bell Boyd & Lloyd, a 250-lawyer Chicago firm.

The majority of activity was in the acquisition of small law firms with 25 or fewer lawyers.  These deals occurred across the country, including three in the Middle Atlantic states, four in the South, one in the Midwest, two in the Western US and eight multi-regional acquisitions.  There were three small Midwestern mergers.

“Very large law firms have taken the brunt of the economic upheaval in the legal market, and that has dampened the prospect of many significant mergers in the short-term,” Clay commented.  

Two AmLaw 100 firms acquired law firms outside of the United States.  Jones Day, a 2,500-lawyer firm headquartered in Cleveland, acquired 20-lawyer De Ovando y Martinez del Campo in Mexico City.    McGuireWoods, a 900-lawyer Richmond-based firm, acquired 36-lawyer Grundberg Mocatta Rakison in London.

The pace of mergers has fluctuated over the last year. In 2008 there was a total of 70 law firm combinations reported – 18 in the first quarter, 26 in the second quarter and 13 each in the third and fourth quarters. 

2008 Mergers Effective in 2009
There were twelve law firm combinations announced in 2008, but effective in the first quarter of 2009.   They included the merger of two Kansas City firms, Polsinelli Shalton and Shugart Thompson & Kilroy,  to form the 500-lawyer Polsinelli Shugart, and Bryan Cave’s acquisition of 220-lawyer, Atlanta-based,  Powell Goldstein.

A complete list of law firm mergers and acquisitions announced to date in 2009 as well as an archive from prior years is online at www.altmanweil.com/MergerLine.

About Altman Weil MergerLine™
Altman Weil MergerLine™ is an online tracking service hosted by legal management consultancy Altman Weil, Inc. It 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.

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Contact Information

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

Go to Altman Weil MergerLine to view the complete list of 2009 law firm mergers. 

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