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In Buyer’s Market for Clients, More Law Firms Face Choice: Merge or Die

Posted Jan 20, 2012 1:44 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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As corporate law firms cope with a business slowdown in which their clients have, for for the first time in decades, gained the upper hand, a growing number are now facing a stark choice: Merge or die, reports the Wall Street Journal (sub. req.).

While some powerhouse boutiques are among the most profitable law firms in the United States, it's become harder for local general practice business firms without a special area of expertise to compete with regional, national and international one-stop legal shops. That has led to a significant uptick in law firm merger activity, which grew by 65 percent last year and is also expected to boom in 2012, according to the Am Law Daily.

Merging with another firm can be risky. But so is referring clients to competitors for matters that can't be handled by those on a small or midsize firm's attorney roster. And much of the growth that the biggest firms now anticipate is expected to occur in legal markets outside the U.S.

"Little by little, our ability to service our clients' needs [had] been limited by our smaller size," said Randall H. Miller, former managing partner of Holme Roberts & Owen. Today, the 150-attorney Denver-based firm is part of 1,100-attorney Bryan Cave, where Miller heads the Denver office. The two firms merged at the beginning of the month.

Related coverage:

ABAJournal.com: "US Law Firm Mergers Rebound In 2011"

ABAJournal.com: "It’s Official: McKenna Long and Luce Forward Announce Merger"

ABAJournal.com: "After 50 Years, Wyo. Oil and Gas Law Firm Is Disbanding"

Financial Times: "Pinsent Masons and McGrigors in merger talks"

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