Major legal markets like New York, Washington, D.C., California and Chicago will stay hot in 2020, as law firms look to either enter or expand their presence in those markets. But don’t sleep on the rest of the country.
Law firms have been clamoring to get a foothold in several middle markets, including Atlanta, Boston, Dallas, Minneapolis, Nashville, Seattle and the North Carolina “Research Triangle”—an area marked by Duke University, North Carolina State University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill—according to consultants who advise firms on mergers.
Smith and Tom Clay, a principal at Altman Weil, are anticipating that law firms will still show significant interest in mergers and combinations in 2020. But they both note that, after years of consolidation, it’s getting a little harder for law firms to find the right candidates to merge or combine with, especially in the major markets.
“There aren’t that many small or midsize firms left in all of those markets who are interested in mergers who are willing to consider it,” Smith says. “That’s what holds firms back.”
Jeffrey Lowe, the global practice leader of Major, Lindsey & Africa’s law firm practice group, has similar sentiments, saying that, as consolidation occurs, there are no “three or five firms that are perfect for you who matched up in terms of complementary geographies and practice areas.”