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December 4, 2009 1:45 PM

Hildebrandt, Baker Robbins To Merge

Posted by Zach Lowe

Let's take a break from litigation and M&A for some important news in our corner of the world: Hildebrandt International, one of the top legal consulting firms in the U.S., will merge with the tech consultancy Baker Robbins & Company. Both are units of Thomson Reuters, which announced plans Thursday to lay off 240 employees in its legal businesses, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The merger has been in the works since Thomson Reuters acquired Baker in 2007, says Bradford Hildebrandt, the founder of Hildebrandt who will continue to play a prominent role at the combined company while yielding day-to-day supervision to Baker CEO Brad Robbins and Hildebrandt managing director Jim Jones.

"It just makes enormous sense," Hildebrandt says. The two companies have been working together anyway, since a big part of helping firms become more efficient involves streamlining their tech systems, he adds. 

"Most firms are just not equipped with the technology to deal with changing business models the way they are going to be forced to," Jones says. "When you are billing all of your time on an hourly basis, the accounting system is pretty simple. But if a significant portion of your business--not a majority, but a significant portion--is based on flat fees and other alternative arrangements, the technology gets much more complicated."

The new company, which will have 120 consultants, will go through minimal staff reductions. Hildebrandt and Silvia Coulter, a Hildebrandt consultant based in Boston, says the two companies have already combined their staffs. "We adjusted our size early in the recession," Hildebrandt says. 

No one at Hildebrandt was surprised by Friday's announcement, Coulter says. "It makes total sense," she says, noting that leadership at both companies kept people in the loop about the merger talks. Between them, the two companies have worked with 99 of the Am Law 100 firms, leaving us to wonder which firm hasn't hired them. (Hildebrandt was mum on that). 

As our colleague Monica Bay noted last month on her blog The Common Scold, Baker Robbins founder David Baker announced his plan to leave the company for greener pastures in January. He will move to the University of Wisconsin to work in a program designed to develop best practices for small and mid-size farms.

The people we spoke to say Baker's departure did not precipitate the merger. 

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