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Few observers expect law firm mergers to stop dominating the headlines in the legal press any time soon. The volume of announced deals is poised to break records this year, and legal consultants say the number of firms engaged in undisclosed negotiations is also on the rise – making early intelligence about potential mergers an especially hot commodity.

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Law Firms Mentioned

<a href="http://www.almcms.com/contrib

  • Andrews Kurth
  • Ballard Spahr
  • Berwin Leighton Paisner LLP
  • Greenberg Traurig
  • Saul Ewing
  • Sidley Austin

/uploads/sites/378/2017/02/merger-puzzle-Article-201702100625.jpg"><img class="alignleft size-full wp-image-59060" src="http://www.almcms.com/contrib

  • Andrews Kurth
  • Ballard Spahr
  • Berwin Leighton Paisner LLP
  • Greenberg Traurig
  • Saul Ewing
  • Sidley Austin

/uploads/sites/378/2017/02/merger-puzzle-Article-201702100625.jpg" alt="" width="616" height="372" /></a> Few observers expect law firm mergers to stop dominating the headlines in the legal press any time soon. The��volume of announced deals is poised to break records this year, and��legal consultants say the��number of firms engaged in undisclosed��negotiations is also on the rise ��� making early intelligence about potential mergers an especially hot commodity. Law firm mergers hit their 12-month peak in 2015, with 91��deals. The next year, that figure dropped to 85. But this year is easily on pace to surpass the record, with Altman Weil principal Eric Seeger��<a href="http://www.americanlawyer.com/id=1202799570511" target="_blank">predicting the number could hit 100 for 2017</a>. Berwin Leighton Paisner (BLP)��is now mulling a potential union with US firm <a href="http://www.americanlawyer.com/home/id=1202800501086/Bryan-Cave-Big-British-Firm-BLP-Confirm-Merger-Talks?mcode=1202617075486&amp;curindex=4">Bryan Cave</a>, after��<a href="http://www.americanlawyer.com/id=1202752409623/Greenberg-Traurig-Ends-Merger-Talks-With-UKs-Berwin-Leighton-Paisner" target="_blank">discussing a combination with Greenberg Traurig last year.</a>��The tentative deal, which both firms��<a href="http://www.bryancave.com/en/news-events/bryan-cave-and-berwin-leighton-paisner-confirm-they-are-in.html" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">acknowledged in a joint statement</a>��on Monday (16 October),��would create a combined 1,500-lawyer firm with 32 offices in 12 countries around the world. Total combined gross revenue would approach the $1bn mark. Earlier this month, sources told ALM��that <a href="http://www.legalweek.com/sites/legalweek/2017/10/04/hunton-williams-and-andrews-kurth-explore-merger/">US firms Andrews Kurth Kenyon and Hunton &amp; Williams were engaged in merger talks</a>.��Smaller firms in markets across the��US have been��<a href="http://www.americanlawyer.com/id=1202799104824/Law-Firm-Mergers-Keep-Record-Pace-in-Third-Quarter" target="_blank">busily combining all year</a>. Philadelphia alone saw��<a href="http://www.thelegalintelligencer.com/id=1202799093629" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">a string of��major deals</a>��last month, with��Cozen OConnor acquiring a real estate boutique in California, Ballard Spahr expanding into the Midwest, and Saul Ewing merging with Chicago-based Arnstein &amp; Lehr. Then, of course, there are all the potential deals that are still secret, with just a��few partners privy to the negotiations. <blockquote>Some mergers are just two drunks propping each other up</blockquote> Consultants Janet Stanton and Bruce MacEwen of Adam Smith Esq in New York,��along with Kent Zimmermann of Zeughauser Group,��each��said there has been��an uptick lately in behind-the-scenes merger activity. ���There��are deals happening,��� Stanton said, echoing the sentiments of the other two. Given that firms work so hard to keep early-stage talks quiet, Stanton noted that partner defections can be one predictor of ongoing or imminent merger talks. ���That is a really obvious thing to look at, because the people who are left behind are less and less mobile,��� said Stanton. In June, four months��before <em>The American Lawyer</em>��first reported the Andrews Kurth and Hunton &amp; Williams talks, Shearman &amp; Sterling announced that it had <a href="http://www.legalweek.com/sites/legalweek/2017/06/15/five-partner-hunton-competition-team-set-to-leave-for-shearman-in-washington-dc/">snapped up a five-partner team of antitrust lawyers from Hunton &amp; Williams</a>. (One of them, David Higbee, said the two events are ���unrelated���.)��Houston-based Andrews Kurth has also been hit with a series of partner defections this year. Most recently, one of the firm���s key rainmaking partners, David Buck, co-chairman of the firms corporate and securities practice, gave notice that he was leaving to go to Sidley Austin. Of course, partner mobility is a hallmark of Big Law nowadays, and defections��alone are��not a sure sign that a firm is on the merger market. ���Some partners are more equal than others,��� said��MacEwen. ���There are people who are sort of symbolic of the firm,��� he noted, citing management committee��departures��as a signal that a firm may be casting about for a suitor. MacEwen also points out that the rationale��for merger discussions can sometimes boil down to�����optics". For a firm that appears to be flailing, engaging in merger talks at least means "it looks like you are doing something���. Plus, he acknowledged,�����bigger firms have more market awareness". But optics can only get firms so far. While plenty of deals are "well thought through", said Stanton, ���some of the mergers are just two drunks propping each other up". <

  • Andrews Kurth
  • Ballard Spahr
  • Berwin Leighton Paisner LLP
  • Greenberg Traurig
  • Saul Ewing
  • Sidley Austin

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