The how and why of law firm mergers and acquisitions

“Unlike other industries, it’s not like you’re combining to cut your business’s costs,” Hensien said. “Much of what we want to achieve with these things is customer-oriented.”

As part of the Morris Polich deal, for example, Clark Hill was looking for major customers who had a presence in California or who had needs in that market, he said.

“We can serve customers better when we are where they are,” he said.

The combination of Strasburger and Price gave the Texan company a presence in the Midwest and California while expanding the scope of operations for Clark Hill.

“There were a certain number of practices we were looking for – energy, healthcare – that we wanted to expand our expertise in,” Hensien said, adding that taxes and retail were different.

Clark Hill is not close to any future mergers or acquisitions, Hensien said. But the company always evaluates desirable markets and talks to potential partners, he said.

“We’re interested in Southeast Florida, Atlanta, the Carolinas,” he said. “Denver is an interesting market for us.”

Entering a market through a partner is much easier than entering a market alone, Hensien said, reiterating Wolford’s views.

“The lawyers are a well-known force in the market,” said Hensien. “You know the market.”

The trick is to find a company with similar business practices.

“They have to have similar cultures or the deal won’t work,” said Hensien.

In a market, companies may want to leverage the brand that is in place. Clark Hill spent two years as Clark Hill Strasburger in Texas and Clark Hill Thorp Reed in Pittsburgh before moving to Clark Hill in both markets.

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