Mergers and Acquisitions

Alternative growth structures such as Swiss Vereins, global alliances, non-merger affiliations, expansion strategies and a great deal more is covered in the latest edition of the Edge International Review. It provides essential insights for legal leaders – in fact, just what legal leaders need to know about!

The latest edition of the Edge International Review 2012 – essential reading for all legal leaders and senior managers

The review is downloadable from www.edge.ai. Download your free copy now! Alternatively click on the article links below to go directly to something that takes your fancy.

Interesting items you will find in this edition include:

And there is also a special section on the popular Swiss Verein structure:

  • Enter the Swiss Verein (21st century global platform or just the latest fad?) By Nick Jarrett car and Ed Wesemann
  • Harvesting the diamonds (cross selling in a multinational law firm) by Gerry Riskin
  • Come together (creating a collaborative business development culture despite separate profit pools) by Michael J White
  • Lead the way (leadership, guiding principles and brand strategy and a Swiss Verein) by Sean larkan

I take this opportunity of wishing all readers a wonderful festive, Christmas and holiday season and 2013, and thank you for your support, comments and sharing your insights and learnings during this first year of legal leaders blog. It has been a fun journey – I have learned much along the way and made many new friends and professional colleagues. I look forward very much to sharing thoughts and experiences next year!

Sean Larkan, Partner, Edge International

A notable Indian law firm merger came into operation on 1 April 2012. The merger was facilitated by my Edge International colleague Bithika Anand  between one of the oldest law firms in India, “Udwadia & Udeshi” and one of the most dynamic young law firms “Argus Partners”. This merger is interesting given that the merging firms had very different cultures, work force compositions and operated out of the same city.

The merger will allow the new entity to spread its wings – it will have India well covered with 5 offices in the key locations of Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Bangalore and Chennai.

This new Indian law firm merger represents an exciting new chapter for the Indian legal world.

The merged firm will operate under the name Udwadia, Udeshi & Argus Partners, have 12 partners and is well geared/leveraged and resourced with about 60 lawyers. The new firm will be managed by Krishnava Dutt, youthful Founding Partner of Argus.

Krishnava Dutt Managing Partner of the merged firm

Through the combined depth and breadth of knowledge and experience of the partners, the new firm will be in a position to provide legal advice on a wide range of issues.

This is another example of a merger of law firms taking place after months of careful consideration of relevant strategic issues and is the outflow of a strategy for the future growth of the merged firm.  Bithika Anand believes “this development will pave the way for many similar deals in future“. It is also significant that the senior partners in the merged entity have handed over the management and leadership reins to a younger partner, Krishnava Dutt.

Argus Partners was established in 2009 by Krishnava Dutt, former Amarchand Mangaldas Kolkata Partner and Ramya Harihanran, former Amarchand Principal Associate. Argus Partners launched an office in Kolkata, and started their Mumbai office in 2010.

Ramya Harihanran and Darius Udwadia are the founding partners of Udwadia & Udeshi. Both Dilip Udeshi and Darius Udwadia were Partners at Crawford Bailey before they set up Udwadia & Udeshi in 1997.

Other links to announcement news on this item:

The world’s first listed legal practice, Australia’s Slater & Gordon (S&G), announced its agreement to buy national UK firm Russell Jones & Walker (RJW) for £53.8 million on the 30 January 2012.  My UK-based Edge International Partner Chris Bull joins me in this post as we consider some of the implications of this transaction and how the respective markets are viewing the development.

The S&G acquisition of RJ&W in the UK is a good example of successful law firms implementing carefully thought-through strategy and vision using merger or acquisition.

The S&G and RJ&W joinder is significant:

  • an acquisition as such, not a merger, by an Australian law firm of a significant UK firm.
  • the fact that the parties operate largely in the personal legal services space rather than the corporate market.
  • it will establish, when ratified, a foreign and publicly owned ABS (alternative business structure) in terms of the new UK Legal Services Act.
  • the amount involved.
  • the exclusion of outside parties such as insurers and investment companies.

This is a positive and exciting development for the legal profession generally but particularly the UK and Australia:

  1. Merger and acquisition as an outflow of carefully thought-through strategy: as recently stated we see this as affirmation that many law firms see acquisition and merger as simply one possible strategy in achieving their vision and carefully thought through strategic key objectives. It is not a knee-jerk reaction to client or market pressure. Continue Reading Slater & Gordon and Russell Jones & Walker tie up confirms law firms as business-savvy innovators, not ‘merge or die’ desperadoes

In the recent WSJ article “Stark choice for lawyers – firms must merge or die  author Jennifer Smith reasons that due to client and competitive pressures law firms have a ‘stark choice:  to ‘merge or die’. As a result, she says, there has been a ‘flurry’ of merger deals.

A decision by a law firm to merge or not should ideally be the result of a carefully thought through strategy, and implementation of that strategy and the firm's vision, not a knee-jerk reaction to competitive and client pressures. It should certainly also not be because other law firms are doing it. (Illustration adapted from FT image, graphic artist unknown)

The author’s conclusions are hard to reconcile with the actual numbers relied on; only sixty deals world-wide last year (2011) which is understood to be based on the Altman Weil Mergerline. While it is hard to get accurate numbers of law firms per country, based on a rough guesstimate of close to 60,000 for the USA and say 30,000 for the rest of the world, this number represents a minuscule fraction. It leaves one to wonder what is happening to the other 99.9% of law firms?

Unfortunately headlines and statements like this appearing in a respected publication like the WSJ, when repeated, re-tweeted and commented on, can over time lead to unintended and unwanted trends in the legal profession. As I have written elsewhere, while lawyers are sometimes referred to as cats (the oft-repeated being hard to herd/manage etc.) law firms can be like sheep – if one respected firm does something (especially when the pressure is on) others are more likely to follow suit (remember the ‘wait and see’ attitude about staff cuts during the GFC?). It seems some firms will not do anything different until others have tested the water. We have all heard the question around the partners table “what are Able Bodied and Bloggs doing about this?” Continue Reading Wall Street Journal’s ‘law firms must merge or die’ revisited