Could 2016 Break Law Firm Merger Record?

By Nell Gluckman, The American Lawyer

At the end of the third quarter of 2016, the number of law firms mergers was down from last year with no definitive megamerger in sight. It seemed the industry could be reaching a plateau.

But all that has changed in the last month, with 2016 shaping up to at least come close to last year's record for law firm combinations.

Just this week, three potential transatlantic mergers have surfaced. U.K.-based Eversheds and Atlanta's Sutherland Asbill & Brennan, an Am Law 200 firm, announced that they're in talks to combine to form a 2,300-lawyer firm with 61 offices.

Also on Tuesday, Holman Fenwick Willan, another U.K. firm, told The Am Law Daily that it would expand through traditional merger with Houston's Legge, Farrow, Kimmitt, McGrath & Brown. The newly formed firm will have about 470 lawyers worldwide.

Finally, sibling publication Legal Week reported that Dentons might acquire the struggling European branch of King & Wood Mallesons.

Those three potential mergers came after the news that Arnold & Porter and Kaye Scholer would merge to form a 1,000-lawyer firm that will be more than 90 percent U.S.-based, effective Jan. 1, 2017.

"Consolidation is real in the industry," said John Cashman, partner and vice president at the law firm recruiting firm Major, Lindsey & Africa. "Clients want to work with fewer firms."

Cashman predicted that 2017 would be an even bigger year for law firm mergers, but noted that at some point, albeit far in the future, the plateau would come.

"We will never get to a world where there are four legal firms," Cashman said. "The conflict rules are way too strict."

Read more of this article at The American Lawyer.


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