Kelso Consulting's blog for lawyers

Doomed law firm mergers: 2 drowning men don't equal one swimmer

By Tim Prizeman, Director - Kelso Consulting (Public Relations agency)

Law firm mergers - making them work

Over the years I've observed many mergers at law and other professional firms.

Some have been stunningly successful, some have been failures and many somewhere in between.

Clearly they were all intended to be huge successes, but something went wrong for many.  What was it?

Well, I'm not an M&A expert but my observation is that those that went wrong had two things in common.  They were largely driven by the nirvana of cost savings combined with wishful thinking masquerading as "strategy".

In fact the cost savings were illusory (if you combine two law firms you can't realistically halve, or even quarter, the combined marketing, IT or HR spend... not least because law firms often under-invest in these anyway).  So the cost savings did not emerge while huge additional ones were incurred from the chargeable time lost from integrating two superficially similar (but under the bonnet very different)... and invariably this integration cost was underestimated.

The strategy for the merged whole was often something along the lines of "the same, but bigger"... so in the end the new entity had undergone two years' of disruption, increased its costs and still ultimately faced exactly the same market problems that had caused the component firms to stagnate, but the same failing strategy for long term survival.

But what to do about it?

How to make your law firm merger a success:

These problems are also widely encountered in the legal sector where the "squeezed middle" has caused both mergers and prominent bankruptcies.

This new white paper by Peter Scott(a former Eversheds managing partner) has tons of great insights that apply to law firms as much as law firms.... well worth a read before embarking on a merger or, indeed, if you are in one that is starting to flounder.


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Topics: Lawyers, Mergers, Strategy

Tim Prizeman, Director - Kelso Consulting (Public Relations agency)

Written by Tim Prizeman, Director - Kelso Consulting (Public Relations agency)

Director of Public Relations agency Kelso Consulting. We specialise in working with B2B tech companies, management consultants, financial and professional firms to help them build business-winning reputations. We do this through award-winning PR skills and a proven approach to creating high-impact thought leadership campaigns. I am the author of The Thought Leadership Manual: