Slowdown reported in U.S. law firm combinations

A dozen law firm combinations took place in the U.S. in the third quarter, according to Altman Weil MergerLine, a slowdown compared with a highly active first half of 2016.

“One quarter does not make a trend,” said Altman Weil principal Tom Clay. “There may be a number of deals closing in the fourth quarter, but we could be seeing a slowdown because there is not an infinite inventory of desirable acquisitions.”

Two U.S.-based mega-firms announced acquisitions of Canadian law firms in the third quarter. 

The largest deal announced in the quarter was Norton Rose Fulbright’s upcoming combination with Bull Housser, a 92-lawyer firm in Vancouver. 

DLA Piper will acquire 16-lawyer, Toronto Intellectual Property firm Dimock Stratton.

In other large firm moves, 1,700-lawyer, Chicago-based Kirkland & Ellis acquired 17-lawyer Washington, D.C. appellate litigation boutique Bancroft PLLC. 

Paul Hastings, a 900-lawyer firm based in New York City, added 6-lawyer SEC enforcement boutique Zaccaro Morgan in Los Angeles.

Three mid-sized firms made in-state deals. 

Detroit-based, 350-lawyer Clark Hill picked up Axe & Ecklund, a 2-lawyer municipal finance firm in Grosse Pointe. 

Florida firm Greenspoon Marder added to its 185 lawyers through a combination with the 5-lawyer Florida Health Law Center in Fort Lauderdale. 

Bingham Greenebaum Doll, a 210-lawyer firm based in Indianapolis, acquired 2-lawyer mineral law specialists Rhine Ernest in Evansville, Indiana.

Of the combinations announced in the third quarter, all but one were acquisitions of firms with under 20 lawyers, according to Clay.