Law firm mergers ‘white hot’ in 2017, hit record of 102

After a bit of a slowdown in 2016, the pace of mergers and acquisitions among U.S. law firms accelerated again in 2017 to a record 102, according to Altman Weil MergerLine.

The 2017 total topped the record of 91 law firm combinations set in 2015. In 2016, the tempo slowed slightly with 85 law firms combining in the United States, but it was the fourth consecutive year that the total hit 80 or more since 2013.

“The law firm merger market is white hot,” said Altman Weil principal Tom Clay. “Not only is there a broad-based, ongoing interest in acquiring small, high-quality firms to buy market share, but there is also a newly intensifying appetite for larger combinations as more law firms feel the pinch of flattening demand and look for new ways to differentiate themselves from competitors.”

The smaller portion of 2017’s law firm combinations, 20 percent, involved firms with 21 or more attorneys, while the bulk of the activity, 80 percent, were acquisitions of firms with two to 20 lawyers.

Geographically, 40 percent of the larger combinations involved international law firms and another 25 percent were acquisitions of firms in California. The smaller acquisitions were much more dispersed around the country but the top three locations for small deals in 2017 were Florida, Texas and New York.

Within Indiana, two firms were gobbled up by larger offices in 2017.

In August, Bamberger Foreman Oswald & Hahn in Evansville and Indianapolis completed its merger with Stoll Keenon Ogden, based in Lexington and Louisville, Kentucky. Bamberger Foreman added 15 attorneys to Stoll Keenon’s 134. During October, RobergeLaw in Carmel joined Bose McKinney & Evans in Indianapolis. Roberge had three lawyers to Bose McKinney’s 100.

Since 2007 when Altman Weil began tracking combinations among law firms, 13 Indiana-based firms have been acquired.

The 2011 merger between Baker & Daniels in Indianapolis and Faegre & Benson in Minneapolis, Minnesota, ranks as one of the 25 largest combinations from 2007 to 2016. Also, the 2008 acquisition of Sommer Barnard in Indianapolis by Taft Stettinius & Hollister of Cincinnati, Ohio, was among the activity in the Midwest involving acquired firms with 100 or more attorneys between 2007 and 2016.


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