Law Firm Mergers Steady Through 3rd Quarter

Our 3rd Quarter Merger Update

WASHINGTON, D.C., September 30, 2016 - Law firm mergers through the third quarter of 2016 were on par with the same period last year, according to the merger research team at Fairfax Associates, and are dominated by very small acquisitions/combinations.

In the third quarter of 2016, we tracked nine completed mergers (meaning the effective date occurred during this quarter) for a total of 43 completed mergers year to date. This is up one from the 42 mergers through the third quarter of 2015, and closely matches the historical average of 42 mergers through the third quarter when compared to our data over the last 10 years (from 2006 to 2015).

Most mergers in the third quarter were very small combinations, a continuation of the trend we have observed for the past few years. In five of the nine mergers, the smaller firm had between five and 10 lawyers (we don't include mergers of firms under five lawyers in our statistics). In fact, not including Husch Blackwell's combination with 144-lawyer Whyte Hirschboeck Dudek, the average size of the smaller firm was 10 lawyers.

Three mergers took place in California and there was one each in Florida, New Jersey, Texas and Wisconsin.

Two of the mergers were cross-border mergers. Haynes and Boone's combination with Curtis Davis Garrard, a U.K. firm that serves the maritime and offshore oil and gas industries, and U.K.-based Clyde & Co.'s merger with Miami insurance firm, Thornton Davis & Fein. 

Five mergers are set to be completed in the fourth quarter of this year or in early 2017. They include two mergers that involve Canadian firms: DLA Piper's combination with Toronto IP boutique Dimock Stratton (effective November 1) and Norton Rose Fulbright's combination with Vancouver-based Bull Houser (January 1). Kirkland & Ellis is combining with Washington, D.C.-based Bancroft; Roanoke, VA-based Woods Rogers is combining with Edmund & Williams in Lynchburg, VA and DLA Piper is finalizing its merger with Swedish firm Gronberg Advokatbyra.

Fairfax Associates collects data from published reports, press releases and direct reports from law firms. Mergers are reported where the acquired firm has five or more lawyers. Upon routine verification of the data, some historical numbers have been updated since previously issued reports, and the number of mergers contained herein may change as additional mergers are announced.