Monday, January 9, 2012

Law Mergers: Is Bigger Better? Or Just Bigger?

Steven Harper’s “Another Day, Another Law Firm Merger” from his blog, The Belly of the Beast. This post is a few months old, but that doesn’t take anything away from Harper’s analysis of the challenges facing large law firms that combine to become, well, larger. And in doing so, he sheds light on some of the myths of success that drive the urge to merge: bigger is better because profits will grow, bigger is better because laterals will find us more attractive, bigger is better because it brings greater value to the partnership. The truth? Bigger may be better, but it’s above all just bigger. And that makes a law firm merger hard to pull off, for a number of reasons (as Harper lays out).

Does this mean firms shouldn’t merge? Harper doesn’t say, at least not in so many words. And why should he when no one would listen to him: firms will keep on merging as long as their leaders and partners keep thinking that bigger is better. But they’d do well to heed one of his lessons as they “take herculean efforts to vindicate” their merger strategy: “beware of that spin-thing.” Come to think of it, that’s a lesson for us all.

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