MergerWatch’s Q2 report is due out in early July, but we have a sneak peek at the numbers for our readers. Preliminary numbers indicate that law firm mergers for the first half of 2012 are in keeping with the upward merger trend that we saw building last year. The Hildebrandt Institute tracked five completed mergers that involved US firms in the second quarter of the year. This brings the total for the first half of the year to 25. That number is slightly ahead of what we saw last year at this time, which saw 22 mergers in the first half of 2011. The last two years stand out in stark contrast to 1H 2010, with only 14 mergers, and are more in keeping with the years prior to the recession, which saw 42 mergers in 1H 2009 and 36 in 1H 2008.
In keeping with a trend that we noted in the first quarter of the year, one driver of merger activity continues to be large firms making small, strategic acquisitions, often to solidify an existing footprint. Illustrating that point are the combinations completed thus far in the second quarter:
- Frost Brown Todd expanded its Nashville location by merging with seven-lawyer MGLAW
- Pittsburgh’s Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney acquired seven-lawyer local firm Manion McDonough & Lucas
- Kupelian, Ormond & Magy, a nine-lawyer Southfield, Michigan firm, joined Detroit’s Clark Hill
- Birmingham’s Balch & Bingham combined with local firm Presley Burton & Collier (seven lawyers)
- Tampa’s Fowler White Boggs merged with 11-lawyer Atkinson, Diner, Stone, Mankuta & Ploucha, which significantly expands Fowler’s Ft. Lauderdale office
Outside the US, there were 19 completed mergers in the second quarter, for a total of 38 in 1H 2012. This compares with 15 mergers in the second quarter of 2011 and nine mergers in second quarter 2010.
While there were not as many blockbuster mergers in Q2 as in the first quarter, May 1 saw the merger of England’s Pinsent Masons and Edinburgh law firm McGrigors, resulting in a firm of over 1,500 lawyers. Law firm consolidation in the UK is setting a brisk pace, with a number of combinations either effective or about to go live between firms in Scotland and England, in particular. Most notable are tie-ups between Anderson Fyfe in Glasgow and TLT in Bristol (July 1); Archibald Campbell & Harley in Edinburgh and Shoosmiths in England (in the fall of 2012); Glasgow’s Biggart Baillie and DWF in Manchester (July 1); and DAC Beachcroft and Glasgow’s Andersons Solicitors (Sep 3).
Australia’s Slater & Gordon’s first overseas move – its acquisition of the UK’s Russell Jones & Walker – was approved by the Solicitors’ Regulation Authority in April, which granted the firm a license to practice law in the UK as an incorporated entity with non-lawyer ownership.
We’ll give a full report in our quarterly MergerWatch update at the beginning of next month.
Posted by Marianne Purzycki