Another day, another report on the frantic pace of law firm mergers.
With 79 law firm tie-ups announced in the first nine months of this year, 2018 appears poised to become the busiest year ever for consolidations, according to data released Tuesday by Altman Weil. The 27 mergers and acquisitions announced in the third quarter have put 2018 ahead of the record-breaking pace established in 2017.
It will take just 24 deals in the final quarter of the year to top the record of 102 deals set last year, according to Altman Weil’s MergerLine. And the fourth quarter is typically a brisk time for merger announcements, with 25 last year and 26 the previous year.
“Almost every law firm we work with is actively considering its merger options in 2018, and some large firms are becoming serial acquirers,” Altman Weil principal Eric Seeger said in a statement. “But while large firms are increasingly aggressive about growth, we think an underlying shift in attitude at small and midsize firms—driven by both threat and opportunity—is what is pushing the law firm merger market into record-breaking territory.”
Fox Rothschild‘s qualifies as one of these serial acquirers. Its acquisition of southeastern regional firm Smith Moore Leatherwood was easily the biggest deal of the quarter, with the 800-lawyer Philadelphia-based firm scooping up the Greensboro, North Carolina-based firm’s 131 lawyers. That deal, Fox Rothschild’s third acquisition of the year, is scheduled to close on Nov. 1, and it will give the firm six new offices in North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia.
Also substantial was Venable‘s acquisition of New York City intellectual property law firm Fitzpatrick, Cella, Harper & Scinto. When it formally absorbs Fitzpatrick Cella’s 96 lawyers on Nov. 1, 658-lawyer Venable will double its footprint in the Big Apple.
The quarter saw three noteworthy international tie-ups. The largest of these was DLA Piper‘s acquisition of 60-attorney Delacour in Copenhagen. Dentons has not paused from its relentless march across the globe, picking up 33-lawyer Larrain Rencoret Urzua in Santiago, Chile. That was the firm’s eighth international acquisition of the calendar year. And Littler Mendelson’s deal with 20 attorney Belgian labor law boutique Reliance marked the firm’s second European tie-up of the year.
But the vast majority of the deals involved the acquisition of domestic firms with fewer than 20 lawyers, although Am Law 200 firms including Stinson Leonard Street, Holland & Knight, Womble Bond Dickinson, Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck and Michael Best & Friedrich were on the acquiring side.
For the second quarter in a row, the mid-Atlantic was the top region targeted by acquirers.