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Firms keep on merging, and the mergers are getting bigger. Those are the basic findings of Hildebrandt International’s annual MergerWatch survey, released last week. Merger activity remained buoyant in 2005 with 49 mergers and acquisitions of U.S. law firms, up two from 47 in 2004. The key difference was that the average merger size increased from 30 attorneys in 2004 to 67 in 2005. “Part of it is just the continuing pressure on midsize firms,” says Lisa Smith, a consultant with Hildebrandt. “Those firms are now looking more seriously at what they need to do to compete effectively.” Washington has been a hub of this activity, home to the two largest combinations: DLA with Piper Rudnick and Gray Cary Ware & Freidenrich; and Pillsbury Winthrop with Shaw Pittman. A significant number of the mergers involved trans-Atlantic unions such as the one between Kirkpatrick & Lockhart and London-based Nicholson Graham & Jones. As for 2006? “I think there could be some blockbusters,” says Smith. Twelve mergers have already been announced. So start counting.
Emma Schwartz can be contacted at [email protected].

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