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Legal consulting firm Hildebrandt International is being acquired by publishing giant Thomson Corp., the companies announced Tuesday. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed, but Hildebrandt will keep its name and continue to operate as an independent business allied with Thomson’s legal and regulatory division. Bradford Hildebrandt, who pioneered the field of legal consulting when he opened his firm 30 years ago, will continue to direct the business. He said his 35 consultants, based in New Jersey, Washington, San Francisco, Chicago and London, would benefit from Thomson’s international platform and draw from the resources of Thomson’s 30-person corporate strategic consulting group. “They are really an internal group doing strategic planning for all of Thomson,” said Hildebrandt. “We will draw upon that talent.” The consulting outfit has 65 employees altogether, and Hildebrandt said they would all retain their jobs. Kyle Christensen, a spokesman for Thomson’s legal and regulatory division, based in Egan, Minn., said the strategy is to purchase and pair up leading legal content and software firms to create new services. “The thinking [with Hildebrandt] is that they have incredible insight into management trends — that they really are a significant think tank in that area,” said Christensen. Since its purchase of West in 1996, Thomson has acquired the FindLaw Web site, practice management software provider ProLaw, and multimedia publishers Glasser LegalWorks and Elite, among others. The Hildebrandt acquisition had been in the works for several months. Hildebrandt said his clients would see a seamless transition, adding that the acquisition doesn’t create any client conflicts. The legal consulting niche is far from crowded, though Altman Weil Inc. and a number of smaller shops compete with Hildebrandt to advise firms on mergers and other management issues. One of those competitors, Newport Beach-based consultant Peter Zeughauser, said the deal could help shops like his. “Most consulting clients want independent advice,” he said. “Once you are linked to so many different products, it is difficult to create the perception in the market that you are truly independent.”

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