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May 21, 2013

Law Firm Mergers: The Importance of a Timeline and Project Plan


Our firm is a 4 attorney firm in Columbus, Ohio. Three of our partners are in their 60s and contemplating their exit strategies. We have a very profitable high profile practice and have been approached by a couple of very large firms concerning possible merger. We believe that this would be our best exit strategy. What mistakes have you seen other firms similar to ours make that we should avoid?


Mistakes can run the  gambit – from choosing the wrong marriage partner – to getting into a deal that does not make business sense. A common problem that I have sees is the lack of a timeline and project plan resulting in project drift and lost time. I just got involved with a small firm that had been working with the managing partner and a small team from a much larger firm. After a few months of  financial and other document exchange, informal gatherings, etc., these individuals advised the partners in the small firm that they believed all looked good and led the partners in the small firm to believe that a deal with eminent. However, after one year had passed the small team in the larger firm presented the matter to the full partnership for a vote on the merger and the partnership voted against the merger.

Lessons Learned

  1. Don't assume that the managing partner or a small merger committee or team in a larger firm speaks for the firm or has the authority to approve a merger. Merger with another firm or extending partnership are usually decisions restricted to partnership vote in most firms.
  2. The partnership dynamics in larger firms will always be a variable and in larger firms a great deal of time is often required for this to play out.
  3. It is critical that you establish your timeline (goal date) and let it be known to the other firms that you are speaking with. Let them know that you are talking with other firms that will have to have a decision by a date certain.
  4. Outline a step-by-step task or project plan based on the goal date to focus your efforts, keep you on target, and reduce project drift.

Don't invest a year with only one firm only to find out that they are not interested.

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


Posted at 09:44 PM in Mergers
Tags: Law firm mergers

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