Law firm combinations at lowest ebb since 2010 and the Great Recession

There were seven law firm combinations announced in the U.S. in the second quarter of 2020 according to Altman Weil MergerLine, all involving acquisitions of small law firms with 20 or fewer lawyers.
This was the lowest total deal number recorded in a quarter since the third quarter of 2010, when law firms struggling under the effects of the Great Recession completed only five combinations.

“Uncertainty is the biggest stumbling block to deal-making right now,” says Altman Weil Principal Eric Seeger. “Until firm leaders have a better sense of the depth and duration of the current economic downturn, they are going to proceed with caution. We expect the third quarter will be very slow as well.”

“All big deals have been put on hold until management bandwidth improves and leadership teams are able to travel to meet in person,” adds Altman Weil Principal Tom Clay. “Plus, some firms that might otherwise be thinking about merger do not want to enter negotiations in a weakened position and are waiting for the market to turn positive.”

The two largest deals announced in the second quarter of 2020 were made by AmLaw 100 law firms. In its second European acquisition of 2020, Littler acquired 20-lawyer, Polish labor and employment firm Paruch Chrusciel Schiffter. Cozen O’Connor added nine-lawyer, Philadelphia start-up boutique Baer Crossey McDemus.

The five additional combinations announced in the quarter were all acquisitions of firms with five or fewer lawyers. Four of those were same-state combinations in Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Maryland; the fifth was a small Florida-Illinois merger.

Altman Weil MergerLine™ logs law firm combinations as they are reported by media outlets and in press releases; links the user to the original news stories; and, compiles key statistics on each deal. The complete list of law firm mergers and acquisitions announced to date in 2020 as well as reports and analysis of the law firm merger market since 2007 are available online at www.altmanweil.com/MergerLine.


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