Fewer Law Firm Mergers in 2016: Report

The legal consultancy Altman Weil released its quarterly report on law firm mergers today, showing that there were six fewer U.S. law firm mergers in 2016 than in the previous year.

Altman Weil tracked 85 law firm combinations announced in the United States last year, less than the 91 announced in 2015, but still a strong showing, according to Tom Clay, a principal at the consultancy.

After all, the 85 deals in 2016 were still better than the 82 announced in 2014 and nearly as robust as the 88 announced in 2013.

Clay said that the consolidation trend stems from post-recession market conditions that have persisted for years.

“The best way to make sure you continue to have clients and have more work is to go out and buy another firm,” said Clay.

Most of the combinations tracked by Altman Weil MergerLine involved small U.S. firms: In 2016, 84 percent of the acquired firms had 20 or fewer attorneys. And some of the largest combinations came in the final months of the year.

The largest combination of the year was announced in mid-December when the 1,900-lawyer Eversheds, based in the United Kingdom, and 400-lawyer, Altanta-based Sutherland, Asbill & Brennan, agreed to form a new global law firm.

2016 also saw a rare merger of AmLaw 100 law firms when a deal was made in November between Washington, D.C.-based Arnold & Porter and New York-based Kaye Scholer, Altman Weil said in its report.

Altman Weil’s list of mergers and acquisitions and trend information is available for free online at http://www.altmanweil.com/MergerLine

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