Legal update: Key considerations for a successful merger/acquisition

Published: Monday 8 November 2021

Firm foundations

The long term success of a law firm merger depends on the process having firm foundations. From the outset, arguably before any discussions between firms even commence, having a clear purpose for the merger is essential. That purpose must include an understanding of how the merger will benefit the clients of both firms involved – if the clients do not benefit then it is less likely that the full potential financial benefits of the merger will be achieved.

Communications plan

A well-managed communications plan can smooth some of the inevitable uncertainty and disruption that will be caused by the merger process. Communication internally will help with retention of partners and staff, positive communication externally will help with future recruitment and with messaging to clients.

Integration

This is not just about IT, practice management and finance systems. What is more, integration does not stop on completion day. The integration change process must continue for months, if not several years, to truly bring people, clients and opportunities together within the new firm.

Integration of teams in particular takes time, but it must not be allowed to drift. Of course, individuals will strike up their own relationships with their new teammates in their own time, but keep your ear close to the ground and discourage any ‘them and us’ sentiment before it takes root.

The dominant force

There will usually be a dominant force in a merger, but that does not always mean that their systems and/or processes are better. Although taking a ‘one firm’ approach early on will mean that integration is more effective in the long run, a merger or acquisition is a good opportunity for all sides critically to assess what they do and how they do it. The term ‘synergy’ is overused and not always fully understood, but by taking the best elements from each other’s systems, a post-transaction practice really can add up to more than the sum of its component parts.

What is classed as successful

What is classed as successful by one stakeholder in a firm, may not be viewed in the same way by another. Discussing and understanding what everybody wants from a deal beyond the financial aspects is critical and having the frank conversations at the beginning of the process is a vitally important early step to take.

Key contacts

Jon Cartwright
Jon Cartwright
Partner
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Patricia Kinahan
Patricia Kinahan
Partner
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Andy Harris
Andy Harris
Partner
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Jack Hayman
Jack Hayman
Senior Manager
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