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Survival kit: Planning a successful merger

A decision to merge with another firm must be based on realistic aspirations and carefully planned as part of a clear development strategy, say Howard Hackney and Barry Wilkinson

6 March 2019

In the year to June 2018, 345 firms closed and 154 merged or amalgamated. In September 2018, there were 10,456 law firms in England and Wales. Of these, 2,392 are sole practitioners.

We also know that the distribution by turnover has a long tail – to get into the top 200 firms, you need a turnover of over £10m. The implication is that there is an awful lot of small to medium-sized (SME) law firms, and many are ripe for merger or acquisition.

There is also evidence that law firm partners in most SME firms are getting older. Experience suggests that before the 2008 crash, many law firms were making good profits and some partners, aged in their 40s, were not inclined to bring senior staff into the partnership.

The crash happened and life got difficult for many firms, and the overlooked aspiring partners left. This has now improved for most law firms, but ten years on, those partners are now in their 50s and often with no succession plans, making their firm...

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