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Small law firm acquisitions drive record year in mergers

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Law firm combinations were up 47 percent in 2013, which is the highest number of combinations recorded in the seven years that Altman Weil MergerLine has been compiling data, the organization announced Wednesday.

The surge in mergers last year was driven by a boom in acquisitions of small law firms, said Altman Weil principal Ward Bower.

“These kinds of deals are smart, low-risk moves to enter new markets and acquire new clients, and we expect the trend to continue in 2014,” he said.

Of the 88 law firm combinations reported in 2013, 82 percent were acquisitions of firms with 20 or fewer lawyers. Most of the larger deals in 2013 involved a bigger firm that was at least five times the size of a smaller firm with which it combined.

Bower also pointed out that most of the law firm combinations these days are actually acquisitions, not mergers.

“The complexity of a true merger of equals is exponentially greater. There are any number of potential pitfalls on the way to the altar,” he remarked.

Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP recently completed its merger with Chicago firm Shefsky & Forelich. Four other firms with Indiana ties combined in 2013. In June, Lorch and Naville and Ward King Agnew in New Albany combined to create a 14-attorney firm of Lorch Naville Ward LLC. In September, Fort Wayne firm Federoff Kuchmay LLP merged with Carson Boxberger LLP, upping the total of attorneys at Carson Boxberger to 27.
 

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