Law firm mergers increased in the last quarter of 2012, a year characterized by a record number of deals with foreign firms, according to Altman Weill MergerLine. In a sign that U.S. firms are continuing to expand globally, there were four major international combinations in the fourth quarter.
K&L Gates, based in Pittsburgh, acquired a 300-lawyer Australian firm, Middletons, giving the firm more than 2,000 lawyers. The deal was announced in December and went into effect Jan. 1.
New York-based SNR Denton announced major European and Canadian acquisitions in November—a combination with Paris-based Salans, which has 770 lawyers, and another with Toronto-based Fraser Milner Casgrain, which has 559 lawyers, for a combined firm of almost 2,500 lawyers. Both deals go into effect in the first quarter of this year.
The other big deal of the fourth quarter was the combination of Houston’s Fulbright & Jaworski, which has 850 lawyers, with London’s Norton Rose, which has 2,900, for a combined firm of 3,750 lawyers. The combination, announced in November, will go into effect June 1.
There were a total of 19 combinations announced in the fourth quarter—nearly one-third of the 60 deals announced in 2012. The annual total matched the 60 deals announced in 2011.
Five additional international deals were announced in 2012 for a total of nine, the largest number since MergerLine began tracking law firm mergers in 2007. That included Baker & McKenzie’s fourth quarter acquisitions of a 91-lawyer Lima firm, Estudio Echecopar, and a 16-lawyer Johannesburg firm, Rudolph Bernstein & Associates, which pushed the Chicago firm over the 4,000 lawyer mark.
Another mega-firm, DLA Piper, acquired a 26-lawyer Paris firm, Frieh Bouhenic, in August. The other international deals were K&L Gates acquisition of a nine-lawyer Milan firm, Marini Salsi Picciau in February and San Francisco-based Carroll Burdick & McDonough’s March acquisition of the five-lawyer Munich firm Schweiger & Partners.
One notable local combination in 2012 was McKenna Long & Aldridge’s March acquisition of the 139-lawyer San Diego firm Luce Forward Hamilton & Scripps.