Selling a Merger

We’ve seen it dozens of times.  The leaders of two firms work to put together a merger, but when it is introduced to the respective partnerships, the merger gets shot down.  The firm’s managing partners have wasted months on a fruitless effort and are left wondering how this could have happened. The dynamics of selling […]

White Knight Mergers

Lawyers earn their living by advising clients on how to minimize risk.  Not surprisingly, therefore, risk adversity is a driving influence in many law firms’ management decision making.  So, when considering merger opportunities, firms have typically focused on merger partners that represent the least risk. For larger firms, minimizing risk means four possible merger strategies.  […]

Happy Meals: Growth Through Small Mergers

A major objective of many law firms’ strategic plans is to grow specific practice areas or office locations through small mergers.  Unfortunately such small “acquisitions” often include practices that the larger firm doesn’t want.  But partners in the targeted practice frequently don’t want to be “cherry picked” and demand that the merger include everyone.  An […]

Brand Sharing

As the purchase of legal services by major corporations, particularly on a global basis, becomes increasingly institutionalized, brands become more competitively important.  But the time and investment required to build a brand is beyond the capability of some large firms.  For many of those firms that want to play on a national or international stage, […]

Dancing With Elephants: Acquiring Smaller Law Firms

Mergers continue to be a front burner topic for virtually every law firm.  While much of the publicity that helps fuel that interest focuses on the “mega mergers” between international giants, in truth, the vast majority of mergers involve relatively small firms.   In fact, of the 25 U.S. mergers that have taken place so far […]

There are a variety of ways of defining legal marketplaces.  Certainly there are markets for specific practices and there are markets within industries.  But the licensing of lawyers largely dictates that much of the buying of legal services occurs within geographic markets.  Accordingly, the size and growth potential of geographic markets should play a major […]

There are a variety of ways of defining legal marketplaces.  Certainly there are markets for specific practices and there are markets within industries.  But the licensing of lawyers largely dictates that much of the buying of legal services occurs within geographic markets.  Accordingly, the size and growth potential of geographic markets should play a major […]

Game Changing Mergers

We have seen very few mergers in the U.S. that could be categorized as “game changers” — that is, a merger that dramatically changed the competitive landscape.  Sure, we see lots of mergers where two firms from contiguous states double their size through a merger; but, as the old horse racing saying goes, “You don’t […]

After the Merger – Hanging Onto Your Clients

Law firm mergers are always sold to the partners of the participating firms on the basis of the new revenues that will be created through client synergies.  Unfortunately, most firms spend so much time planning the marketing of the merged firm to potential clients that they put at risk their existing client bases. When advising […]

Ugly Golf Swings and Other Merger Metaphors

As consolidation reduces the universe of available merger partners, waiting for the perfect candidate may take a long time.  There are times when a “fixer upper” – a firm without direction or that has profitability problems – may represent an appropriate opportunity for a growth oriented firm that has its act together. I fear that […]

The Importance of Romance

Customarily, law firm leaders approach merger discussions with the same detached objectivity that they bring to clients’ transactions.  But when it comes to convincing their partners of the value of something that represents massive change to their everyday work style, it can’t just be about numbers and synergies.  There has to be some romance. Picture […]

2011 Banner Year for Mergers

Much has been written about 2011 being a banner year for mergers including articles in the Wall Street Journal and the American Lawyer.  It is true that there were somewhere around 60 mergers involving U.S. firms last year and that represents a 54 percent increase from 2010.  But this may be much ado about relatively […]

T.J.L.U. – Sufficient Motivation for a Merger?

When a law firm leader is asked why his or her firm is considering a merger with a particular firm, the most common answer you hear is, “They’re just like us.”  It’s probably human nature to seek out kindred spirits, and certainly dealing with people who share your values and have a similar history is […]

The Price of Acquisitions: Assessing and Managing the Real Cost

The term “acquisition” is used quite often to describe the manner in which law firms bring in experienced lawyers.  Sometimes firms describe the hiring of lateral partners as an acquisition and bringing in groups of lawyers or a whole practice group from another law firm is viewed as an acquisition.  When the consolidation of two […]

Home Court Advantage

We are seeing a significant roll up among smaller and mid-sized law firms in the U.S.  Evidence of the consolidation of law firms can be seen in Of Counsel magazine’s annual survey of the 700 largest U.S. law firms.  In 1994 the 700th firm had 51 lawyers; in 2006 the 700th firm had 20 lawyers.  […]

Strategic Mergers

I was speaking with the managing partner of an AmLaw 200 firm a couple of weeks ago.  He casually mentioned that, year in and year out, he spends about 25 percent of his time involved in merger discussions.  I thought he was kidding but he assured me he was completely serious and had the non-billable […]

Learning to Dance Backwards: What Successful Acquirers Know

Most law firms want to grow.  Whether to gain depth of capability or achieve the credibility among clients that comes with critical mass, growth in the number of attorneys is a strategic priority for the majority of law firms in the U.S.  Of course, firms have several growth options.  They can grow organically by hiring […]

Staying Out of Sam’s Club: Making Small Acquisitions Work

The recession provides an excellent opportunity for law firms to achieve strategic objectives through a series of small mergers that are effectively acquisitions.  Increasingly, smaller firms with less than 50 lawyers see “being acquired” as the best means of surviving the economic downturn.  For larger firms, picking up lawyers in small groups enhances the likelihood […]

Should Firm Cultures Merge?

A friend of mine always dreamed of owning a restaurant.  When a particularly popular bistro came on the market, he quickly bought it and went about “improving” the menu, “fixing” the service and “rejuvenating” the atmosphere. Within six months, my friend had succeeded in driving a previously successful restaurant out of business. We both learned […]

Evaluating Merger Opportunities: A Managed Process

Law firms stumble among potential merger partners with little but gut feel to guide their decision. A simple evaluation process permits law firm leaders to look at a merger from a variety of perspectives. The result is a judgment based on what the combined firm brings to the market rather than a comparison of two […]