In early September we posted a story on the uptick in law firm mergers. We promised to provide a full account for the third quarter at a later date, and today we can report that the Hildebrandt Institute tracked nine completed mergers involving U.S. firms in the third quarter of 2011. This brings the total for completed mergers in the first three-quarters of the year to 31. This is a 55 percent increase from the 20 mergers completed in the first three-quarters of 2010. However, merger activity still lags behind 2009, which saw 49 completed mergers in the same time period. The trends indicate that merger activity in the legal market is picking up, but many firms remain somewhat cautious about large combinations.
The largest U.S. mergers in the third quarter were the combinations of McKool Smith with Hennigan Dorman, and Strasburger & Price with Oppenheimer, Blend, Harrison and Tate. Additional mergers of note in the third quarter included: LeClairRyan with Biedermann, Reif, Hoenig & Ruff; McElroy, Deutsch, Mulvaney & Carpenter with Kalison, McBirde, Jackson & Robertson; and Sichenzia Ross Friedman Ference with Anslow + Jaclin. The mergers covered a wide variety of headquarters locations, including Texas (one merger apiece in Houston and San Antonio); California (two mergers in Los Angeles); New York; Boston; New Jersey (two mergers); and Washington, DC.
In addition, six combinations were announced to become effective at a later date, including four significant tie-ups: Squire, Sanders & Dempsey with 80+ Perth-based lawyers from Minter Ellison (effective October 1, 2011); Ice Miller in Indianapolis and Schottenstein Zox & Dunn in Columbus, Ohio; (January 1, 2012); Edwards Angell Palmer & Dodge with Chicago’s Wildman, Harrold, Allen & Dixon to create Edwards Wildman Palmer (October 1, 2011); and Jones, Walker, Waechter, Poitevent, Carrère & Denègre with Watkins Ludlam Winter & Stennis in Mississippi (on or before January 1, 2012).
Non-U.S. merger activity has stayed relatively steady since 2009. Globally, the number of combinations involving two non-U.S.-based law firms in the third quarter was nine, for a total of 32 for the first three quarters of 2011. This tracks comparably to prior years which saw 32 combinations for the first three quarters of 2010 and 35 in 2009.
Significant tie-ups outside the U.S. slated to be completed in the fourth quarter 2011 include Clyde & Co with Barlow Lyde & Gilbert in the U.K., creating a firm with over 1,250 fee earners, and Beachcroft with Davies Arnold Cooper, also in the U.K., to create DAC Beachcroft with over 1,200 legal professionals.
Australia continues to be an active market and the resource-rich western part of the country in particular has been attracting widespread attention from both domestic and international firms. In addition to the aforementioned Squire, Sanders & Dempsey combination, DLA Piper combined with Australia’s DLA Phillips Fox; Clifford Chance combined with two Australian firms: Chang, Pistilli & Simmons in Sydney and Cochrane Lishman Carson Luscombe in Perth; and Australia’s Gilbert + Tobin joined with Perth’s Blakiston & Crabb (all in the second quarter). Recently, Ashurst and Blake Dawson announced plans to combine their businesses in Asia by March 2012 with a full merger, conditional on a further vote of the partnerships, by 2014.
Posted by Marianne Purzycki