Otterburn Legal Consulting

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Law firm mergers

The importance of size

Size is a key issue for most firms of solicitors and this is achieved primarily through:

  • organic growth
  • merger, and most firms of solicitors have the possibility of merger or acquisition on their agenda

The problem with organic growth is that it is slow and on its own is rarely sufficient, especially for smaller firms.  It is very easy to focus attention on two or three key people only to find that, having trained them and just as they become productive and profitable, they leave.  Organic growth is always part of the picture but it is rarely sufficient.  Firms who rely entirely on organic growth are likely over time to be overtaken by their competitors.

For most firms a merger or acquisition can, if done right, be critical in moving them to the next level or creating the economies of scale needed.

Law firm mergers in the UK

Achieving a successful merger is not straightforward:

  • there will be relatively firms you would want to merge with
  • the culture may not be right
  • if some people, especially equity partners, do not retire you may not create the right structure needed to make it work financially
  • you need to be clear about the leadership and management of the ongoing firm
  • the new firm needs a clear position in the market
  • the merger needs to make sense to clients

Our work on mergers typically involves working with both firms over a period of time addressing these and other key issues.  Sometimes it can be very useful for the partners in both firms to meet and in effect have a joint partner retreat.  It can be a great way of helping the two teams to bond.

“We asked Andrew to facilitate a joint partners’ away day following the announcement of the proposed merger of our two firms, in order to help us bond as partners and to formulate an agreed vision and strategy for the new merged firm. Andrew’s involvement exceeded all expectations. He spent a few days with each firm a few weeks before the away day in order to get to know us and our staff, and he was able to bring this knowledge, together with his vast experience of law firms, to help us define our vision and strategy. I would recommend Andrew to any small or mid sized law firm wanting advice on strategy, whether you think you need it or not.”