Law firm mergers, acquisitons continue to roll on

Twenty-one U.S. law firm mergers and acquisitions were announced in the second quarter this year, according to data compiled by Altman Weil MergerLine. At the mid-year point, there have been a total of 51 combinations announced, putting 2018 on pace for yet another record setting year.

“We’ve gotten used to the constant drumbeat of law firm combinations, but what’s new is the size of some firms being acquired,” says Altman Weil principal Eric Seeger.  “Already this year, four U.S. law firms, each with over 100 lawyers, have traded their independence for the security and heft of a larger platform. That says a lot about the intensity of market competition in 2018.”

The largest deal announced in the quarter, was the combination of Clark Hill, a 450-lawyer regional law firm based in Detroit, with 195-lawyer, Dallas-based Strasburger & Price. 

Strasburger is the third large Texas law firm to be rolled up into a larger regional firm in 2018, following 300-lawyer Andrews Kurth which merged with Hunton & Williams and 230-lawyer Gardere Wynne which combined with Foley & Lardner.

The second deal involving a 100+ lawyer law firm was the announced combination of 600-lawyer, East-Coast regional law firm Nelson Mullins and 160-lawyer, Florida firm Broad and Cassel. Global law firm Dentons made its eighth acquisition of 2018, adding 44-lawyer Hawaiian law firm Alston, Hunt, Floyd, & Ing. 

Philadelphia-based, AmLaw 100 law firm Fox Rothschild acquired two law firms this spring. 

In May, they doubled their Chicago presence with the addition of 23-lawyer Shaw, Fishman, Glantz, & Towbin.

Last month, the firm bolted on 6-lawyer Rollin, Braswell, Fisher to grow their Denver office.

In the only cross-border acquisition of the quarter, 1,500-lawyer, AmLaw 100 law firm Littler Mendelson added a new European office by acquiring 8-lawyer Dutch labor and employment boutique CLINT in Amsterdam.

Several AmLaw 200 firms made small U.S. acquisitions in the quarter. 

Stinson, Leonard, Street added its first Texas office with 16-lawyer Lackey Hershman in Dallas.  Vorys Sater acquired Beck & Thomas, a 10-lawyer IP boutique in Pittsburgh. 

Goulston & Storrs grew its New York City presence with five-lawyer Miller & Wrubel.  Lathrop Gage expanded its Los Angeles office with the addition of four-lawyer Scheidemantle Law Group.

Acquisitions of law firms with over 20 lawyers accounted for 19 percent all combinations in April, May and June 2018, while 81 percent involved acquisitions of smaller firms.

The top geographic regions targeted by acquirers in the quarter were the Middle-Atlantic states of New York and Pennsylvania, and the western U.S., including California, Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Hawaii.