Two AU deals rank among 10 largest US law firm acquisitions over past decade

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Two deals that involved the acquisition of Australian law firms are among the ten largest law firm unions in the US over the past decade, with a third nearly making it to the list, a recent report reveals.

There’s been a flurry of mergers and acquisitions involving US firms in the last 10 years, with 688 deals recorded by Altman Weil said in its special report titled “10 years of law firm mergers & acquisitions.” More than three-quarters of all deals involved the acquisition of small law firms with two to 20 lawyers. Large combinations are “relatively rare” as they are “exponentially more difficult to accomplish successfully,” the legal management consulting company said.

During the decade, only three firms in Australia were acquired by US firms, but these were major deals that involved large firms with at least 300 lawyers. The largest was DLA Piper’s acquisition of DLA Phillips Fox, followed by Denton’s acquisition of Gadens and K&L Gates’ acquisition of Middletons.

At the time the deal was announced in 2011, Chicago’s DLA Piper had nearly 3,500 lawyers, while Sydney-headquartered DLA Phillips Fox had about 600. When New York-headquartered Dentons announced a combination with Gadens in 2015, it had 6,600 lawyers while the Sydney-based firm had 500. In 2012, Pittsburgh’s K&L Gates had 1,762 lawyers while Melbourne’s Middletons had 300.

The majority of deals struck by US firms were with other firms in North America (630 in the US and 6 in Canada), followed by Europe (25), Asia Pacific (12), Latin America (10), and Africa (5).

The top 11 cross-border combinations are:

1. 2015
Dentons (New York – 2,503 lawyers)
Dacheng Law Offices (Beijing – 3,681)

2. 2009
Lovells (London – 1,421)
Hogan & Hartson (Washington DC – 1,111)

3. 2012
Norton Rose (London – 2,900)
Fulbright & Jaworski (Houston – 850)

4. 2012
SNR Denton (New York – 1,138)
Salans (Paris – 770)

5. 2010
Sonnenschein Nath Rosenthal (Chicago – 655)
Denton Wilde Sapte (London – 600)

6. 2011
DLA Piper (Chicago – 3,448)
DLA Phillips Fox (Sydney – 600)

7. 2012
SNR Denton (New York – 1,138)
Fraser Milner Casgrain (Toronto – 559)

8. 2010
Squire Sanders & Dempsey (Cleveland – 761)
Hammonds (London – 500)

9. 2015
Dentons (New York – 6,600)
Gadens (Sydney – 500)

10. 2016
Eversheds (London – 1,900)
Sutherland Asbill & Brennan (Atlanta – 400)

11. 2012
K&L Gates (Pittsburgh – 1,762)
Middletons (Melbourne – 300)

In addition to the Dentons (Dacheng and Gadens), DLA Piper (DLA Phillips Fox), and K&L Gates (Middletons) deals in Asia and Australia, three other Asian firms with more than 100 lawyers were acquired by US law firms from 2007 to 2016. These are:

1. 2007
Mayer Brown (Chicago – 1,568 lawyers)
Johnson Stokes & Master (Hong Kong – 260)

2. 2015
Dentons (New York – 6,600)
Rodyk (Singapore – 200)

3. 2007
Reed Smith (Pittsburgh – 1,500)
Richards Butler Hong Kong (110)

The top 10 US combinations are:

1. 2007
LeBeouf Lamb (New York – 700 lawyers)
Dewey Ballantine (New York – 550)

2. 2014
Locke Lorde (Dallas – 625)
Edwards Wildman (Boston – 425)

3. 2016
Arnold Porter (Washington – 700)
Kaye Scholer (New York – 375)

4. 2011
Faegre & Benson (Minneapolis – 447)
Baker & Daniels (Indianapolis – 323)

5. 2015
Dentons (New York – 6,200)
McKenna Long & Aldridge (Atlanta – 313)

6. 2007
Blackwell Sanders (Kansas City – 330)
Husch & Eppenberger (St. Louis – 300)

7. 2007
Locke Liddell (Houston and Dallas – 400)
Lord Bissell (Chicago – 300)

8. 2014
Squire Sanders (Cleveland – 1,227)
Patton Boggs (Washington DC – 280)

9. 2009
K&L Gates (Pittsburgh – 1,700)
Bell Boyd & Lloyd (Chicago – 250)

10. 2008
Bryan Cave (St. Louis – 945)
Powell Goldstein (Atlanta – 220)


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Norton Rose Fulbright leads 2017 law firm mergers

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