Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough has finalized its merger with Florida’s Broad and Cassel, creating a “super-regional” firm with over 750 attorneys and a footprint along the Eastern Seaboard from Boston to Miami.
The merged firm has 25 offices across 11 states and the District of Columbia, and it boasts a combined revenue of over $500 million from the previous year. While Nelson Mullins is based in Columbia, South Carolina, and now counts more than 150 lawyers across Florida, its largest single office is still in Atlanta.
Managing partner Jim Lehman, who is continuing in his pre-merger role, said the transition since the merger was publicly announced in June has been hurried on the logistics side, but smooth with regard to clients and personnel.
“We have been so pleasantly surprised to watch the lawyers work together on their own initiative,” he said. “It’s been almost magical to watch the different practice groups begin integration meetings. The excitement has been refreshing.”
While the transition between the public announcement and the finalization of the merger has been swift, the two firms had been in discussions for two-and-a-half years, Lehman said at the time of the announcement.
Clients have also responded positively to the transition.
“The two firms have already referred a number of matters back and forth when clients have learned we have the additional resources and the additional footprint,” Lehman said.
Lehman said that the quick pace of finalizing the merger is owed in part to Aug. 1 being an ideal date for converting some of the firms’ systems.
“It required us to accelerate the combination of some of the other traditional back office operations,” he said. “On the technology side, it will be another couple of months before everything is completely done.”
Conflict checks offered another mild hiccup. Before going ahead with the merger, the firms conducted high-level conflict checks with their biggest clients. But at the last minute they discovered some minor conflicts they weren’t expecting.
“We were able to work through it,” Lehman said.
The next step in integration is firmwide meetings and leadership meetings in August and continuing through the fall.
Then the firm is looking to continue its growth in Florida, where Broad and Cassel has contributed 150 lawyers from 10 offices. Going into the tie up, Nelson Mullins had small outposts in Tallahassee and Jacksonville.
The firm will do business in the state as Nelson Mullins Broad and Cassel. Broad and Cassel’s former chairman, C. David Brown II, is taking a voting seat on the firm’s executive committee.
“We believe we have great opportunities to grow the combined firm in Florida,” Lehman said. “We believe it will be attractive to lawyers there because of our presence and our strategic footprint.”
An analysis from consultancy Fairfax Associates looking at merger announcements from the first half of 2018 identified the the tie-up as the largest combination on the books for the second half of the year. With regard to completed mergers, the first half of the year saw substantial activity surrounding the state of Texas.
According to law firm consultancy Altman Weil, 2018 has been notable both for the volume of merger activity and for the number of reported deals involving acquired firms with at least 100 lawyers. Looking at a wider period of time, a number of Midwest and second-tier markets have been popular destinations for national firms looking to combine with smaller operations.
International tie-ups also haven’t gone out of style, as the first half of 2018 saw five such deals completed. But even the largest of these—Bryan Cave’s 1,600 lawyer combination with Berwin Leighton Paisner in London—would be overshadowed by a long-rumored combination between Allen & Overy and O’Melveny & Myers. Senior partners from O’Melveny traveled to London to meet with management from the former last week, as merger discussions to create a 3,000 trans-Atlantic behemoth gathered pace.