Law firm mergers and acquisitions hit record in first half of 2015

July 6, 2015

In another active year of law firm mergers and acquisitions, Indiana attorneys’ offices are, so far, remaining on the sidelines.

A total of 19 law firm mergers and acquisitions were announced in the United States during the second quarter of 2015, according to Altman Weil MergerLine. This brings the half-year total to 48 – the highest number of combinations at mid-year in the nine years that the consulting firm has been compiling the data.

The largest combination announced in the second quarter of 2015 was the merger of global law firm Dentons and Atlanta-based McKenna Long & Aldridge, finalized July 1. McKenna Long’s headcount at the time of the merger was just over 300 lawyers.

In January, Dentons announced its intention to merge with Chinese firm Dacheng, a deal which when final will make Dentons the largest law firm in the world with over 6,000 lawyers.

“We expect the law firm acquisition market to be extremely active for the foreseeable future,” Altman Weil principal Eric Seeger said in a press release. “In 2015, headcount growth is usually not the primary driver of these deals, although Dentons might be an exception. Most firms are pursuing strategic, incremental additions with an eye on profit growth rather than headcount.”

The pace of law firm mergers and acquisitions increased dramatically in 2013 with a total of 88 law firm combinations being announced. This was a jump from the 60 announced in 2012 and the most recorded by Altman Weil MergerLine.

Despite a 7 percent slip, 2014 turned in the second highest annual total of law firm combinations at 82.

Included in the 2014 mergers and acquisitions was one Indiana-based law firm. The 20-attorney firm of Rudolph Fine Porter & Johnson in Evansville combined in the second quarter with the 188-lawyer firm of Jackson Kelly based in Charleston, West Virginia.  

Of the 19 deals announced in 2015’s second quarter, 15, or 79 percent, were acquisitions of law firms with 20 or fewer lawyers. Geographically, the range of acquired firms was broad and included seven in the Midwest, five in the South, three in the Mid-Atlantic region, three in the western U.S. and one in New England.

For large law firm expansion, Chicago and Houston continue to be desirable markets.

Among the notable combinations in the second quarter are:

•    Cozen O’Connor, a 575-lawyer Philadephia-based firm, expanding in Chicago with the addition of a 60-lawyer commercial litigation firm, Meckler Bulger Tilson;
•    Honigman Miller, a 260-lawyer Detroit-based firm, entering the Chicago market by acquiring the 14-lawyer litigation boutique Schopf & Weiss; and
•    Blank Rome, a 520-lawyer firm headquartered in Philadelphia, acquiring the 24-lawyer intellectual property boutique Wong Cabello in Houston.

Also, in June, two law firms in upstate New York merged to form a super-regional Northeastern firm. Hiscock & Barclay’s 204 lawyers have joined forces with the 56-lawyer Damon Morey to form the new Barclay Damon.



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