The Growing Trend of Law Firm Consolidations

Anyone who’s been paying attention to the legal landscape in recent years has likely already noticed the increasing number of law firms that are merging with other law offices in an effort to remain profitable while avoiding aggressive lay offs.  A. Harrison Barnes, attorney and founder says the proof is in the numbers.  In 2007, there were 54 law firm mergers in the U.S.  The following year, the total rose to 55 and by February 2009, there were 20 such mergers, which averaged out to more than two a week, with a new record being expected by year’s end.  So what’s it all about?


The founder offered a few explanations.  “The recession, a strong need to up the ante in billing rates and more large American firms facing lay offs of their associates are just a few of the reasons these mergers make sense on every level”.  Interestingly, since 2008, it’s the South that has seen more mergers and acquisitions than any other region.  In fact, in 2008, of the 55 law firms that were involved in these transactions, 22 of them were in the South and more specifically, the Southeast.  States such as Florida, South and North Carolina and Georgia are seeing a lot of these consolidations take place.


Another reason these practices are so attractive, says A. Harrison Barnes, is due to the “strength in numbers” concept.  Two firms might be succeeding, but when they come together, they often find they flourish.  Bringing two firms, each with its own clientele, has proven beneficial on many levels.  Clients are seeing these affirmations that their representation is on solid ground and making the right choices; that can only lend to more confidence in their legal firms.  Plus, it opens up the door for a new team of dynamic lawyers to come together as a team, each with his own specialty.  This makes it attractive for those big clients who have a wide spectrum of needs; it instills confidence.


While this might not mean new hires in the immediate future, it does position those firms into a much stronger perspective when the time comes that they do need to add associates.  “There’s no denying that the economy is on the mend; it’s just a much slower dance than anyone predicted and as a result, all sectors have had to revise their short term outlook and goals”, said Barnes.  “Once these firms are able to bring on new talent, it will be from a much stronger place that includes added benefits for both the firm and the associate”.


Many law offices are also considering what they can offer once merged.  Higher fees for specialized legal services are very attractive.  Clients like knowing that one firm can effectively handle all of his legal needs.  With more than 165,000 law firms in the United States, every advantage has the potential of being a powerful move that can make or break a firm.

Elizabeth Martinez – Ph.D. – Organizational Psychology. Provides you with a deep level of insight into your career direction and career development.

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