Law firm mergers continue at record pace

July 5, 2017

This year might be one for the record books. According to Altman Weil Inc., 2017 is shaping up as a record year for U.S. law firm mergers and acquisitions.

Altman Weil’s MergerLine has documented 52 combinations announced through June 30, including 24 in the second quarter. This tops the prior record of 48 announced during the same time period in 2015 and 2016. Last year ended with a total of 85 law firm mergers and acquisitions.

Just last week, Evansville-based Bamberger Foreman Oswald & Hahn LLP announced its merger with Lexington, Kentucky-based Stoll Keenon Ogden PLLC starting Sept. 1.

Altman Weil notes that acquisitions of law firms with 20 or fewer lawyers accounted for 71 percent of all combinations in the second quarter, with the acquirers’ primary focus on the Midwest.

The Bamberger-SKO merger is the only one announced so far this year involving an Indiana-based firm, according to Altman Weil data.

Cross-border combinations are also on track to reach an all-time high this year.  

“The chief driver of combinations is the battle for market share that’s being waged in response to flat or decreasing demand for law firm services, and we don’t expect that to change any time soon,” says Altman Weil principal Eric Seeger.  “Law firms of all sizes are vying to acquire new clients, expand into new markets, and upgrade their brands through quality combinations.  Many of the largest U.S. firms are now routinely looking outside the domestic market for those opportunities.”

Between 2007 and 2016, nearly a quarter of all U.S. cross-border combinations involved U.K.-based firms. Two U.S.-U.K. deals were announced in May. Other cross-border deals included firms from Australia, Peru and Myanmar.

The complete list of firm mergers and acquisitions is available at altmanweil.com/MergerLine.


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