29 Law Firm Combinations Announced in First Quarter of 2015

Three big international deals, including largest-ever law firm merger

Newtown Square, PA, April 6, 2015 — There were 29 law firm mergers and acquisitions announced in the United States in the first quarter of 2015, according to Altman Weil MergerLine.  The quarter’s announcements included the largest-ever law firm combination. 

Three US-based global law firms made significant international deals in the first quarter of 2015. 

In the largest-ever law firm combination, Dentons, a global law firm with 2,600 lawyers, announced its intention to merge with 4,000-lawyer Dacheng Law Offices in China*.  DLA Piper, a 4,200-lawyer firm, will acquire Davis LLP, a 260-lawyer Canadian firm based in Vancouver.  Morgan Lewis & Bockius, a law firm with over 1,800 lawyers, will add 80-lawyer Singapore firm, Stamford Law Corporation.

“The largest US law firms are looking outside of the US for opportunities to grow,” says Altman Weil principal Ward Bower. “As they shake off the last effects of the recession they are ready to make big deals again.”

Domestically, Chicago was a target of opportunity for three large US law firms in the first quarter of the year.

Nixon Peabody, a 600-lawyer Boston-based firm, significantly expanded its presence in the Windy City with the acquisition of 102-lawyer Ungaretti & Harris.  Shook Hardy & Bacon, a 450- lawyer firm headquartered in Kansas City, opened its first Chicago office by acquiring 25-lawyer Chicago litigation firm, Grippo & Elden.  Greenberg Traurig added 5-lawyer Henderson Law in Chicago to its 1,700-lawyer firm.
In a noteworthy deal at the end of March, the 340-lawyer Detroit-based Dykema law firm made a significant move in the hot Texas market, agreeing to combine with 118-lawyer Cox Smith Matthews with five Texas offices.

The Southern US continues to be the most active region for US law firm combinations. Of the 29 deals announced in January, February and March 2015, twelve (41%) were acquisitions of southern law firms, including four in Florida and three in Texas.
Despite a number of bigger deals, three-quarters of all law firm combinations reported in the first three months of 2015 were acquisitions of firms with 20 or fewer lawyers.        

In addition to the 29 law firm combinations reported in the first quarter of the year, there were eight deals announced in the fall of 2014 that became effective in January 2015.  Included among those was the merger of Dallas-based Locke Lord with Boston-based Edwards Wildman forming a new 1,050 lawyer US law firm.

The complete list of law firm mergers and acquisitions announced to date in 2015 as well as an archive from prior years and an eight-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.

*UPDATE April 8, 2015:  Subsequent news reports have revised down the size of each firm at the time of the announcement, with Dentons at 2,503 and Dacheng at 3,681, forming a combined firm of approximately 6,200 legal professionals - still the largest ever law firm combination.  On April 8th, Dentons announced another combination with 422-lawyer southeastern US firm, McKenna Long & Aldridge.


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Ward Bower
Altman Weil, Inc.
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