There’s been a lot of talk about law firms merging or combining in today’s hot legal market. But is it a prudent or a good decision or should you skip the opportunity?

For law firm combinations to make sense a lot of things need to fall into place. Financial considerations are hugely important to any combination.

And so are culture, firm size, practice mix, geographical footprint, shared views on long-term strategy and growth, practice systems, compensation structures, and the list goes on.

Here are some things to think about as you consider whether to merger/combine.

Will the merger or combination:

  • Enhance the firm’s competitive advantage?
  • Increase the firm’s lawyer bench strength?
  • Add practice areas that are complementary to existing areas?
  • Expand the firm into other key geographic markets?
  • Increase or diversify the firm’s book of clients?
  • Solidify client relationships?
  • Increase the depth and breadth of services?

These would be the right reasons to consider a merger or acquisition.

Your firm should take pause if the reasons you are considering merging or acquiring the other firm include:

  • Merging because other firms are merging
  • Merging internal weaknesses
  • Merging solve financial problems
  • Merging to address issues involving unproductive/underperforming partners

There are many factors to weigh in deciding to merge or combine, such as the firm’s

  • practice
  • culture
  • clients/client mix
  • people
  • office footprint
  • attorneys
  • financial performance and overall economics/debt
  • infrastructure, including IT and communications systems and practices

Having lived through a merger firsthand I can tell you just how hard it is – and how even if you check off all the boxes it still might not work out or be perfect. Some things are not predictable from a spreadsheet and myriad of meetings, no matter how many times you analyze it – it boils down to market conditions and culture fit.

Preparation is key of course. Here are some of the things that helped when I was going through the merger process (I was an in-house law firm marketing person at the time working directly with firm leadership on the process).

Marketing/Business Development

  • Client base
  • Spread of clients – fees generated by top 25 and 26–50
  • Clients by rank for past 3 years
  • Details of all panels – duration, other firms, fees from panel clients, rates, relationship partner(s)
  • Departmental marketing plans
  • Recent RFPs won and lost
  • Competitor list
  • Structure of practice groups

IT capabilities

  • Ease of integration of practice management systems, databases, other IT
  • New systems installed – past 2 years
  • Proposed new systems
  • List of all IT systems used
  • Lease commitments for all IT – amount, duration


  • Demographics of partnership
  • Entry and exit of partners
  • Performance management of partners
  • Voting rights of partners
  • Current partnership agreement
  • Age, practice area, date joined firm of all equity and salaried partners
  • Equity share of all equity partners
  • Pathway to full equity partnership – admission criteria and process
  • Partner performance criteria
  • Partner draws – past 2 financial years
  • Management roles of partners
  • Laterals in pipeline