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Decade of Mergers: 10 Big Law Tie Ups that Shaped the 2010s (2)

Dec. 26, 2019, 9:51 AMUpdated: Dec. 26, 2019, 4:45 PM

The appetite for law firm mergers is alive and well as the 2010s draw to a close. In the fourth quarter of 2019, four AmLaw 200 firms announced they were in merger talks.

Faegre Baker Daniels, which formed through a merger between Faegre & Benson and Baker & Daniels in 2012, announced on Dec. 18 it would officially merge with Drinker, Biddle & Reath. Troutman Sanders and Pepper Hamilton have also said they’re talking about a tie-up.

It’s an apt way to close out a decade that’s been full of major law firm mergers, including some that have changed the Big Law landscape.

Here we look back at some of the largest law firm mergers over the last 10 years:

  • Lovells and Hogan & Hartson. Lovells was one of the largest firms in London but it struggled against more profitable rivals in the U.K and worldwide. Hogan & Hartson was a power player in Washington in the regulatory and litigation space, but it lacked a presence outside the U.S. In what it called the first “merger of equals” the two officially combined in 2010 to create Hogan Lovells, which now boasts over $2.1 billion in revenue and over 2,600 lawyers globally.
  • Faegre & Benson and Baker & Daniels. Amid a wave of consolidation in the legal industry in the early part of the decade, Minneapolis-based Faegre & Benson and Indianapolis-based Baker & Daniels announced in late 2011 they would become the roughly 700-lawyer firm now known as Faegre Baker Daniels, which boasts outposts far beyond the Midwest.
  • Norton Rose and Fulbright & Jaworski. After acquiring Canada’s Ogilvy Renault and Macleod Dixon and South Africa’s Deneys Reitz, London-based Norton Rose made its first venture into the United States legal market through its merger with old-line Houston firm Fulbright & Jaworski in 2013. The combination created Norton Rose Fulbright, a 3,800-attorney legal giant with 55 offices worldwide.
  • SNR Denton, Salans and Fraser Milner Casgrain. It’s tough to remember now, but at the beginning of the decade, Dentons wasn’t even “Dentons” yet. The 1,400 lawyer SNR Denton formed in 2010 through the combination of Chicago-based Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal and the U.K’s Denton Wilde Sapte. In 2013, SNR Denton announced a three-way merger with Paris-based Salans and Canada’s Fraser Milner Casgrain to create Dentons. It would then combine in 2015 with 3,681-lawyer, Beijing-based Dacheng Law Offices to create what is still the world’s largest firm by lawyer headcount.
  • Squire Sanders and Patton Boggs. Washington-based lobbying firm Patton Boggs was struggling amid years of declining revenue and partner departures. But in 2014 the firm found a lifeline in Cleveland-based Squire Sanders, creating Squire Patton Boggs, a firm that now has a gross revenue of over $1 billion.
  • Arnold & Porter and Kaye Scholer. Washington-based Arnold & Porter was a litigation and regulatory powerhouse, while New York’s Kaye Scholer was best known for its life sciences and financial services work. But amid slipping revenues, the onetime rivals made friends. In 2016 they announced they’d merge to become Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer, with 1,000 lawyers across 13 offices in the U.S. and worldwide. Earlier this year the firm expanded into Seoul, South Korea.
  • Norton Rose Fulbright and Chadbourne & Parke. Founded in 1902, New York’s Chadbourne & Parke had high-profile project finance and litigation practices. But in 2017, the 300-lawyer firm ended its 115-year run as a stand-alone firm when it merged with Norton Rose Fulbright. Chadboune & Parke had seen partner exits and was embroiled in a high-profile gender discrimination lawsuit at the time of the combination.
  • Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice and Bond Dickinson. In yet another trans-Atlantic merger, North Carolina’s largest firm Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice and the U.K.’s Bond Dickinson formalized their tie-up in late 2017, becoming Womble Bond Dickinson. While the two maintain separate compensation systems and financial accounting, the newly formed firm had more than 1,000 lawyers across roughly 26 offices.
  • Bryan Cave and Berwin Leighton Paisner. U.K.-based Berwin Leighton Paisner had pursed a merger stateside for years, and almost combined with Greenberg Traurig. But in 2018 it agreed to merge with St. Louis-based Bryan Cave to create Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner, a firm with a combined revenue of about $900 million. The new firm is said to have the fourth-largest real estate practice of any firm. It was also the first global firm to be led by two women.
  • Hunton & Williams and Andrews Kurth Kenyon. In 2016, Texas-based Andrews Kurth acquired 55 lawyers from New York intellectual property law firm Kenyon & Kenyon. Some 18 months later the newly formed firm, Andrews Kurth Kenyon merged with Virginia-based Hunton & Williams. The 1,000-lawyer Hunton Andrews Kurth posted gross revenue of $748 million in 2018.
(An earlier version included an incorrect number of offices at the time of merger for Arnold & Porter. Updated to include information about Arnold & Porter's expansion into South Korea. )

To contact the reporter on this story: Meghan Tribe in New York at mtribe@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jessie Kokrda Kamens at jkamens@bloomberglaw.com; Rebekah Mintzer at rmintzer@bloomberglaw.com

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