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IndyBar: US Law Firms on Pace for Record Year

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There were 18 law firm mergers and acquisitions announced in the United States in the second quarter of 2013, according to Altman Weil MergerLine. At the mid-year point, there have been 39 total mergers, putting 2013 on a potentially record–setting pace.

“The largest annual total for US law firm mergers was 70 in 2008,” according to Altman Weil principal Ward Bower. “If the pace continues, it looks like 2013 will surpass that record.”

The largest deal announced in the second quarter of 2013 was the combination of Husch Blackwell, a 543-lawyer law firm headquartered in St. Louis, and Brown McCarroll, a 65-lawyer Texas firm. Chicago-based global law firm Baker & McKenzie announced the only cross-border deal of the second quarter, acquiring 45-lawyer Habib Al Mulla in Dubai.

In other relatively sizeable combinations, 300-lawyer, Southern regional law firm Adams and Reese acquired Ellis Lawhorne, a 23-lawyer firm in Columbia, South Carolina; and 560-lawyer, Philadelphia-based Fox Rothschild added 16 lawyers in Denver with the acquisition of Lottner Rubin Fishman Saul.

The other 14 deals announced in April, May and June 2013 were acquisitions of small law firms with 10 lawyers or fewer.

“Typically, the majority of law firm combinations are acquisitions of small law firms, because subsequent integration is so much easier for a dominant acquirer,” said Bower.

In addition to the April, May and June law firm combinations, there were four deals announced at the end of last year that were finalized in the second quarter of 2013.

In April, SNR Denton concluded two mergers with Paris-based law firm Salans and with Canadian firm Fraser Milner Casgrain to create a new 2,500-lawyer, global firm renamed Dentons. In June, U.K.-based Norton Rose finalized its combination with 850-lawyer Fulbright & Jaworski, establishing a major U.S. presence through the merger.

The complete list of law firm mergers and acquisitions announced to date in 2013 as well as an archive from prior years and a six-year trend summary are available online at www.altmanweil.com/MergerLine.•

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