July 8, 2010 12:40 PM

More Law Firm Mergers? Hildebrandt Thinks So

Posted by D.M. Levine

Any recent law school graduate can tell you that the economic recovery supposedly underway has been anemic at best. But according to the latest MergerWatch report from legal consulting firm Hildebrandt Baker Robbins, at least one economic indicator in the legal market--law firm M&A activity--is looking up.

Sibling publication the New Jersey Law Journal picked apart the Hildebrandt report Thursday and reports that after four quarters of decline, the number of firm mergers rose to ten in the second quarter of this year.

"We are seeing significant interest in combinations, including a dramatic increase in cross-border transactions," Hildebrandt's Lisa Smith told the NJLJ. Smith, who heads Hildebrandt's law firm strategy and merger practice, says she expects merger activity to increase over the next two quarters as well.

The bottom fell out of the law firm M&A market beginning in 2009 as a result of the financial crisis. Merger activity peaked in the first quarter of that year, according to the NJLJ, with 33 law firm mergers--the most for a single quarter in five years.

Since then, however, the number of mergers has dropped precipitously. In the first quarter of 2010, there were just four, according to the NJLJ.

"In the middle of '09, people weren't talking merger--what we saw was a three-quarter period where people were internally focused," Smith told the paper. "That's turned around.”

The news of increased merger activity in the legal market comes amid similar reports of an M&A rebound in other markets.

The question on everyone's mind, of course, is whether the uptick in mergers--like the overall recovery--is going to last.

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