Law Firm Mergers Reach Highest Point in Nearly a Decade

The first three quarters of 2015 were on fire for U.S. law firm mergers: The law firm M&A tally was higher than the first three quarters of any given year over the past nine years, according to the legal consultancy Altman Weil.

The finding highlights the ongoing consolidation taking place, as law firms poach from competitors or simply acquire whole firms that likely wouldn’t survive on their own, or that view linking up with a bigger firm with a broader geographic reach as the best strategy amid uncertain business conditions.

For the third quarter, Altman Weil said that there were 20 law firm combinations in the U.S. announced. Sixty eight deals, however, occurred from the beginning of January through the end of September, constituting the highest number that the consultancy has recorded during that time period in nine years — which is how long ago it started tracking law firm merger activity.

The bigger merger annoucements, including Dentons’ disclosure that it would combine with China’s Dacheng Law Offices to create a 6,000 lawyer behemoth, took place earlier in the year. Of the deals that happened in July, August and September, all of the combinations were with 35 lawyers or fewer.

“Large and mid-sized law firms continue to cherry-pick desireable small firms based on practice specialty or geography,” said Altman Weil Principal Eric Seeger, in a statement. “We’re also seeing same-city or same-state tie-ups between smaller firms that are joining forces in an attempt to strengthen their relative market positions.”

The report noted that intellectual property boutiques were a prime target for large law firm acquirers in the third quarter.

Cincinnati-based Dinsmore & Shohl acquired 17-lawyer intellectual property law firm Gifford Krass Sprinkle Anderson & Citowsi in Detroit. Haynes and Boone, a 550-lawyer Dallas-based law firm, acquired eight-lawyer intellectual property firm Mavrakakis Law Group with offices in Palo Alto and Chicago.

Meanwhile, Brownstein Hyatt, a Mountain West law firm with 225 lawyers, expanded its presence in Reno, Nevada with the addition of seven-lawyer intellectual property litigation specialists Watson Rounds.

To view the complete list of law firm mergers, visit the Altman Weil Mergerline here.