Law firm combinations off to a strong start in 1Q

There were 26 law firm combinations announced in the US in the first quarter of 2021 according to Altman Weil MergerLine, as merger activity continues to bounce back from its pandemic-driven decline in mid-2020.

“Law firm leaders are returning to a longer-term, strategic focus after a year of crisis management and tactical triage,” says Altman Weil Principal Tom Clay. “We wouldn’t be surprised to see law firm merger and acquisition totals back over 100 by year-end.”

The biggest combination of the first quarter was Dinsmore Shohl’s acquisition of 47-lawyer Wooden McLaughlin, expanding Dinsmore’s sizable midwestern footprint into Indiana for the first time.

Two AmLaw 100 law firms made significant acquisitions – Crowell & Moring adding 24-lawyer, New York City financial services boutique, Kibbe & Orbe, and Winston & Strawn growing in Los Angeles with the addition of 15-lawyer Scheper Kim & Harris.

Global firm Dentons announced two Latin American acquisitions in Ecuador and Bolivia, planning to bolt on 36-lawyer Paz Horowitz in Quito and 25-lawyer Guevara & Gutierrez in La Paz later this year. In another cross-border combination, Armstrong Teasdale, a 300-lawyer, St. Louis based firm entered Europe adding 32-lawyer Kerman & Co. in London.

Additional activity among AmLaw firms included Phelps Dunbar’s acquisition of 29-lawyer Cabaniss Johnston in Birmingham, Alabama; Bond Schoeneck’s pick-up of Putney Twombly, a 15-lawyer employment boutique in New York and New Jersey; and Day Pitney’s planned addition of 9-lawyer, trust & estate specialists, Howland Evangelista in Providence.

Overall deal size grew in the first quarter of 2021, with 27% of acquired firms having 21 to 100 lawyers up from only 14% in that size category in all of 2020. A broad geographic distribution of deal activity in Q1 signals a healthy resurgence across all US regional markets.

Altman Weil MergerLine™ logs law firm combinations as they are reported by media outlets and in press releases; links the user to the original news stories; and, compiles key statistics on each deal. The complete list of law firm mergers and acquisitions announced in 2021 as well as reports and analysis of the law firm merger market since 2007 are available online at