Watch for more mergers in 2012

The number of law firm mergers increased drastically in 2011 and more are expected in 2012, according to a Hildebrandt Institute report released yesterday.

There was a 67-per-cent surge in law firm mergers in the United States in 2011, said the report, which cited 45 mergers involving U.S. firms compared to 27 mergers in 2010. Merger activity seems to be reverting back to levels before the recession where there were typically 55 or more mergers per year.

Law firm mergers in Canada also jumped in 2011. On June 1, Ogilvy Renault LLP sent shockwaves through the legal industry when it became the first Canadian firm to join the Norton Rose Group, with Macleod Dixon LLP following suit on Jan. 1 this year to create Norton Rose Canada. With the addition of the Canadian firms, Norton Rose now has more than 2,900 lawyers in offices around the globe.

McMillan LLP and Lang Michener LLP also combined on Jan. 1, 2011, now operating under the name McMillan. In addition, shortly before McMillan’s merger, Saskatchewan’s Balfour Moss LLP merged with Miller Thomson LLP on Dec. 7, 2010.

Eleven mergers have already been announced in the U.S. in the past two weeks, which is almost twice as many at this time last year. These include Faegre & Benson LLP in Minneapolis and Baker & Daniels LLP in Indianapolis to become Faegre Baker Daniels LLP; Greenebaum Doll & McDonald PLLC in Kentucky and Bingham McHale LLP in Indianapolis to become Bingham Greenebaum Doll LLP; Schottenstein Zox & Dunn Co. in Columbus, Ohio combined with Ice Miller LLP in Indianapolis; and Holme Roberts & Owen LLP in Denver combined with Bryan Cave LLP in St. Louis.

There were also some large mergers in the United Kingdom in 2011 with more expected in 2012, including Australian law firm Blake Dawson’s plans to combine its business with the U.K.’s Ashurst LLP in March 2012 and a full merger by 2014.

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