Law Firm Mergers Continue Slow in Third Quarter

Newtown Square, PA, October 1, 2009 — There were thirteen new law firm combinations announced in the U.S. in the third quarter of 2009 according to Altman Weil MergerLine, up from seven deals reported in the second quarter.

“While the absolute number of deals was up, most were very small acquisitions,” says Altman Weil principal Bill Brennan, who advises law firms on mergers and growth.  “This reflects the continuing caution of law firms in response to the recent economic turmoil.” 

The one sizeable deal reported was Boston-based, international law firm Bingham McCutchen’s acquisition of McKee Nelson, a 120-lawyer firm with offices in Washington DC and New York.

Three other large law firms ventured into the acquisition market in the third quarter, including Howrey LLP which acquired Day Casebeer Madrid and Batchelder, a Silicon Valley intellectual property boutique; New York-based Jackson Lewis which added the 5-lawyer employment firm of Rubin Shulman to its ranks in Michigan; and, Cincinnati-based Dinsmore & Shohl which combined with Louisville’s Woodward Hobson & Fulton.

Shumaker Loop & Kendrick, a 180-lawyer firm headquartered in Toledo, added a second Florida office with the acquisition of Abel Band in Sarasota.  The remaining eight deals announced were all small regional combinations.   The deals were spread across the country, including four in the Western US, two in the Middle Atlantic states, one in the Northeast and one in the South.

“Law firms do not want to assume the risks inherent with big mergers right now. Instead they are acquiring small firms or groups of lateral partners with portable business,” Brennan says.

“Despite the subdued market sentiment for ambitious mergers, some law firms that previously rejected overtures are now willing to be acquired by a larger firm if there’s a fit with their strategic plan – and that creates opportunities. Contrary to conventional wisdom, the best time to expand via a merger or acquisition is often during a recession because there are better deals to be had at more attractive terms.” 

There were 25 law firm mergers and acquisitions reported in the first quarter of 2009 and seven reported in the second quarter.  In 2008, there were a total of 70 mergers, including 18 in the first quarter, 26 in the second quarter and 13 each in both the third and fourth quarters.

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

Bill Brennan
Altman Weil, Inc.
(610) 886-2038
bbrennan@altmanweil.com

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

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