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Law Firm Mergers and Acquisitions Fell 24% in 2009

Posted Jan 6, 2010 11:08 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Law firm mergers and acquisitions announced last year fell by 24 percent over 2008, but there could be a resurgence in 2010.

The Altman Weil MergerLine noted 53 mergers were announced last year, 79 percent of them involving the acquisition of small law firms with 20 or fewer lawyers. Altman Weil principal Ward Bower says in a press release that the lower numbers reflect “law firms’ cautious approach last year, as most firms spent 2009 focused on internal issues of cost cutting, layoffs, and compensation adjustments in response to the Great Recession.”

But one announced deal stands out: The merger of U.K.-based Lovells with Washington D.C.-based Hogan & Hartson. When it is completed next May, it will be the second-largest law firm merger ever.

“The Hogan Lovells merger is going to rekindle interest in trans-Atlantic mergers and acquisitions in 2010,” predicts Bower.

Two other significant mergers in 2009 were:

• The acquisition of Bell Boyd and Lloyd by K&L Gates.

• The acquisition of McKee Nelson by Bingham McCutchen.

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