03 July 2019 at 12:13 BST

Law firm merger slowdown

Less 'big deals' reason for slower rate of law firm mergers so far in 2019, with only 20 law firm combinations announced in second quarter.


There were 20 law firm mergers and acquisitions announced in the US in the second quarter of 2019, and there have been 47 deals announced through mid-year according to Altman Weil MergerLine.

“Counter-intuitive” increase

The volume of 2019 combinations is down 10 percent from last year at this time due to a slowdown in larger deals. In each quarter of 2017 and 2018, there were an average of five acquisitions of firms with 20 or more lawyers.  In the first six months of 2019, there have been a total of only three mid-sized and large combinations. “It may seem counter-intuitive, but we're actually seeing increased interest in large deals behind the scenes,” says Altman Weil principal Tom Clay. “However, the larger and more complex a combination is, the more slowly it is likely to progress and that can cause a temporary dip in the deal flow.” The largest combination of the quarter was a rare merger of equals. Two Seattle-based law firms, Foster Pepper and Garvey Schubert, each with just under 100 lawyers, announced that they would merge to form a new Pacific Northwest regional firm, Foster Garvey.

International acquisitions

There were three international acquisitions announced in the second quarter. Greenberg Traurig, a 2,000-lawyer international law firm based in New York, acquired 39-lawyer Santa Maria Studio Legale in Milan, establishing the firm's first Italian office.  Mega-firm Dentons will add to its global profile with 21-lawyer MawereSibanda in Harare, Zimbabwe and 13-lawyer Fisher Jeffries in Adelaide, Australia. Acquisitions of small southern US law firms represented half of all deals in April, May and June 2019.  The largest of those was made by AmLaw 200 firm, GrayRobinson, which added to its Florida footprint with Thompson Sizemore, a 9-lawyer labor and employment boutique in Tampa.


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