WASHINGTON, D.C., April 3, 2017 – Law firm mergers in the first quarter of 2017 were on par with merger activity in the same time period last year, according to the merger research team at Fairfax Associates, led by a continuing strong wave of cross-border combinations.
In the first quarter of 2017, we tracked 21 completed mergers (meaning the effective date of the merger occurred during the first quarter of 2017). This equals the 21 mergers in the first quarter of 2016, and is slightly higher than the first quarter historical average of 20 mergers per year, when analyzing our data over the last 10 years (from 2007 to 2016).
There were five cross-border combinations in the first quarter. This followed a busy 2016, which recorded 13 cross-border mergers out of 58 mergers, up from five in all of 2015. These mergers were: Eversheds combination with Atlanta’s Sutherland Asbill & Brennan (400 lawyers); Norton Rose Fulbright with Vancouver’s Bull Houser (92 lawyers); DLA Piper with its Portuguese alliance firm ABBC (50 lawyers); Dentons combination with Mexican firm Canales Zambrano y Asociados (5 lawyers); and London-based Holman Fenwick with Houston's Legge, Farrow, Kimmitt, McGrath & Brown (17 lawyers).
Most mergers in the first quarter were small combinations, with seventy-five percent involving firms with between 5 and 20 lawyers. The two largest domestic mergers of the quarter were Arnold & Porter and Kaye Scholer (375 lawyers), and Baker Donelson with Baltimore’s Ober Kaler (110 lawyers).
New York led the way in terms of in-bound (the location of the smaller firm) merger activity, with four mergers (three in New York City). These included Chicago’s Freeborn & Peters merger with five-lawyer Hargraves, McConnell & Costigan; Atlanta-based Smith Gambrell with seven-lawyer Balber Pickard Maldonado & Van Der Tuin; New York’s Fitzpatrick & Hunt with White Plains eight-lawyer Pino & Associates, as well as the aforementioned Arnold & Porter and Kaye Scholer combination. Other top markets included Texas with three mergers, and California and Ohio with two mergers apiece. States with one merger each included Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, South Carolina, Virginia and Wisconsin.
Looking forward, four large combinations have already been announced for completion in the second quarter of 2017: Eversheds Sutherland with Harry Elias Partnership (90 lawyers) in Singapore; Dentons with Boekel (70 lawyers), based in The Netherlands; Norton Rose Fulbright with New York’s Chadbourne & Parke (300 lawyers); and DLA Piper with Danish law firm LETT (150 lawyers).
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 may have been updated since previously issued reports, and the number of mergers contained herein may change as additional mergers are announced.
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Fairfax is a specialist firm of highly experienced consultants focused on serving clients in professional services, and in particular, law firms. Our services and areas of focus include merger strategy and search, merger integration, strategic planning, partnership issues including partner compensation, and governance and organization. We work with the largest international and national law firms and leading firms of all sizes.