Law firm merger market sags in third quarter

There were only five new law firm combinations announced in the U.S. in the third quarter of 2010 according to Altman Weil MergerLine, all of which were acquisitions of small law firms.

Total law firm combinations in the first three quarters of 2010 are off by 47% compared to the same time period in 2009. Year to date there have been 24 deals announced versus 45 last year at this ti

"Although the economy was arguably worse last year, there was a long tail of deals in the pipeline that kept the 2009 numbers up to some degree," said Altman Weil principal Ward Bower. "What we're seeing today reflects the fact that many firms put mergers on hold last year and are only now starting to reinstate plans for strategic growth."

"There are a number of deals in the works that may signal a turn in the trend, including some highly-publicized discussions between US and UK firms," Bower commented.

Of the five acquisitions in the third quarter of 2010, four were apparently driven by strategies to extend or strengthen the geographic presence of the acquiring firm.

Cozen O'Connor, a 530-lawyer firm headquartered in Philadelphia, announced the acquisition of 13-laywer Sher & Blackwell in a move reported to double the size of its Washington, D.C. office. Lathrop & Gage, a 300-lawyer Kansas City based firm acquired 24-lawyer Denver firm, Kamlet Reichert. Detroit's Dickinson Wright added a 3-lawyer Las Vegas boutique, Gibson Lowry Burris. Philadelphia-based Saul Ewing acquired Ruben & Aronson, a 4-lawyer Bethesda, Maryland firm.

A complete list of law firm mergers and acquisitions announced to date in 2010, as well as an archive from prior years and a three-year trend summary are available online at www.altmanweil.com/MergerLine.

Published: Fri, Oct 29, 2010

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