April 4, 2012 6:43 PM

Hildebrandt: Law Mergers Up in First Quarter 2012

Posted by Drew Combs

A report issued Tuesday by legal consulting company Hildebrandt shows continued strong merger activity among U.S. law firms, especially in California and the Midwest.

Merger activity continued on an upward trajectory in the first quarter of 2012, according to the Hildebrandt Institute MergerWatch Report. There were 20 completed mergers involving U.S. law firms during the first three months of this year, a 43 percent increase over the same period last year, during which 14 mergers took place, Hildebrandt reports.

The Hildebrandt report is the second issued this week detailing the flurry of law firm merger activity so far this year. On Monday, as The Am Law Daily reported, legal consultancy Altman Weil released a report noting that 14 mergers had been announced in the year’s first quarter.

Based on Hildebrandt’s first quarter 2012 numbers, this year’s total merger volume is likely to continue a post-recession surge that resulted in a total of 27 completed mergers in 2010 and 45 completed mergers in 2011.

According to the Hildebrandt report, the largest merger to be completed during the first quarter of this year was the combination between Minneapolis-based Faegre Benson and Indianapolis-based Baker Daniels. The merged firm, known as Faegre Baker Daniels, debuted in January with 13 offices and more than 800 lawyers and consultants.

Other first-quarter mergers noted in the report included the tie-up between St. Louis-based Bryan Cave and Denver-based Holme Roberts Owen, which became effective in January, and the marriage of 425-attorney McKenna Long Aldridge and San Diego’s 140-attorney Luce Forward Hamilton Scripps.

As the Altman Weil report also concluded, the Hildebrandt study pointed to more modest combinations as driving much of the recent merger activity. For example, Tennesse-based Baker Donelson added the seven-lawyer Houston litigation shop Drucker Rutledge Smith during the first quarter, and Charlotte’s Moore Van Allen combined with the nine-lawyer Hagood Kerr in Charleston, South Carolina.

The combinations occurred in a diverse array of geographic regions, with three involving the California market and eight involving firms in the Midwest.

The report also listed two oversees mergers that involved U.S. firms: San Francisco-based Carroll Burdick McDonough’s combination with German intellectual property firm Schweiger Partners, and KL Gates’s combination with Milan-based Marini Salsi Picciau Studio Legale.

According to Hildebrandt, in the first quarter of 2012 there were 19 completed cross-border mergers involving non-U.S. law firms, including March’s Swiss verein combination of China’s King Wood and Australia’s Mallesons Stephen Jaques to create 1,800 attorney–King Wood Mallesons.

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