June 28 (Reuters) - The number of U.S. law firm mergers and
acquisitions fell during the last three months, according to
surveys by consulting firm Altman Weil Inc and Hildebrandt
Institute, a division of Thomson Reuters.
Law firms announced 10 mergers between April and June,
down from 14 in the first quarter, according to Altman Weil,
while the number of mergers that closed during the second
quarter dropped from 20 to five, the Hildebrandt Institute said
The drop off in mergers stemmed from a number of factors,
ranging from firm's new focus on strengthening local markets to
the high-profile bankruptcy of law firm Dewey & LeBoeuf, itself
a product of a 2007 merger.
As Dewey wound down over the last six months, it released
approximately 300 partners into the marketplace, possibly
reducing firms' need to pursue marriages, said Ward Bower, a
consultant with Altman Weil.
Winston & Strawn in May, for example, added a 60-lawyer
group from Dewey led by former global litigation head Jeffrey
Kessler. And Greenberg Traurig, which had been in talks with
Dewey about a possible combination, picked up more than 50
lawyers from Dewey's Warsaw office.
The legal community was also unnerved by Dewey's failure,
which highlighted the risks of mergers, said Kent Zimmermann, a
consultant with Zeughauser Group who advises on mergers. Dewey
"made many firms cautious in evaluating growth strategy," he
said, and could have contributed to the decrease in mergers.
Among the handful of deals that were completed or announced
was the merger of Frost Brown Todd, a multistate firm of 450
lawyers, with the seven-lawyer Nashville-based firm MGLAW in
May. That same month, meanwhile, Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney, a
415-lawyer firm based in Pittsburgh, said it would acquire
Manion McDonough & Luca, also in Pittsburgh.
Firms are also giving more scrutiny to potential merger
partners, Zimmermann said.
"There are a number of underperforming firms out there, and
firms that are thinking of growing know that and want to
evaluate opportunities with scrutiny," he said. "Nobody wants to
wind up with a lemon."
(Reporting By Nate Raymond and Rebecca Hamilton)
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