Mergers & Acquisitions

2016 was a busy year for law firm mergers and acquisitions

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2016 marked another busy year in law firm mergers and acquisitions.

According to a Thursday press release from Altman Weil, there were 85 such combinations announced in 2016. In fact, Altman Weil MergerLine found that 2016 marked the fourth consecutive year that there were more than 80 law firm mergers or acquisitions.

“It’s a post-recession reality that with market demand flat-lining the most effective way to add new business is to acquire another law firm,” says Altman Weil principal Tom Clay, in the press release. “But as the supply of prime targets inevitably shrinks, we expect the competition to make high-quality deals will intensify in 2017.”

The law firm consulting firm found that there were a record 11 cross-border mergers and acquisitions last year. The headliner was a union between 1,900-lawyer Eversheds and 400-lawyer Sutherland Asbill & Brennan that was announced in December, which also marked the largest combination by lawyer headcount in 2016. Other notable international combinations included Littler Mendelson joining with 170-lawyer French labor and employment boutique Fromont Briens; and Norton Rose Fulbright acquiring 92-lawyer Canadian firm Bull Housser. Meanwhile, two international giants continued to expand their international capabilities as Dentons tied up a deal with 75-lawyer Munoz Global in Costa Rica while DLA Piper snapped up firms in Canada, Finland and Sweden.

Domestically, the largest combination in terms of attorney headcount was the merger announced in November between Washington, D.C.-based Arnold & Porter and New York-based Kaye Scholer to form 1,000-lawyer Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer. Additionally, Baker Donelson added 110-lawyer Ober Kaler, and Husch Blackwell acquired 144-lawyer Whyte Hirschboeck. Other Am Law firms that swallowed up smaller law firms included Paul Hastings, Blank Rome, Squire Patton Boggs and Fox Rothschild.

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