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April 2010

Apr 08, 2010


Why Do Law Firm Mergers Often Fail

Question:

Our firm has been discussing the possibility of merging with another law firm of similar size. We are are 25 attorney firm. We have heard horror stories of firms that have merged and been unhappy with the experience. Why do mergers fail and what should we look out for?

Response:

There can be a whole list of reasons for failure including poor financial performance, attorney defections, loss of key clients, and leadership and management issues. However, it has been our experience that most failures have been the result of poor cultural fit. The merging firms – after they have moved past conflict checks and excitment about new client potential – jump immediately to an examination of practice economics and the financials. They fail to perform proper due dilligence on the people. It is critical that firms insure that cultural due dilligence is a key component of the merger assessment process. Philosophies, personalities, and life styles should be generally compatible. The partners should like each other and the deal should make sense.

Do all the due dilligence that you can – start with the people – then move through the rest of the process.

John W. Olmstead, MBA, Ph.D, CMC

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