THE UNITED States saw a resurgence of law firm mergers and acquisitions in the first quarter of this year. According to a leading multidisciplinary consulting firm, the statistics reflect the rapid consolidation of the legal industry.
A total of 20 mergers and acquisitions at the beginning of this year was a marked increase from the last quarter of 2003, which saw only five mergers in US law firms, according to Hildebrandt International. In 2003, 18 out of 35 occurred in the first quarter, compared to 22 out of 55 in the same quarter of 2002.
The firm suggested that historically the first quarter was the busiest for mergers in the US because many are effective from 1 January.
Three law firms completed two mergers each in this year’s first quarter in the US, including Reed Smith, Akerman Senterfitt and Lathrop & Gage. Reed Smith has been the most active of these firms, completing a merger every year since 1999.
Boutique firms have been attractive to larger firms, with two property boutiques acquired in the first quarter. Also, three labour and employment boutiques were acquired.
Hildebrandt International merger and consolidations group head Lisa Smith said the statistics reflected the fact that consolidation of the legal industry was continuing at a fast pace, whether it be through mergers, lateral or organic growth. “While we don’t expect 2004 to near the levels of 2000 and 2001, we do see a resurgence of merger activity,” she said.