Law firms expect sector mergers to accelerate this year

CONSOLIDATION in the legal sector is likely to escalate this year, according to new research, as law firms look to either merge with another business or poach large groups of lawyers from competitors.

Annual research by legal provider Sweet & Maxwell suggests that business sentiment amongst the UK’s law firms is picking up after 10 per cent of finance directors said merging with another legal entity is likely this year.

“There will be consolidation this year, but it will very much be at the smaller firms. International merger transactions amongst the big firms are likely to happen in 2011 or 2012,” said Tony Williams of Jomati Consultancy.

Hiring large teams of partners from rival firms is also more likely to happen during 2010, say 40 per cent of large law firms, as the legal sector moves to improve profitability by bulking up in areas such as, restructuring, white collar crime and commercial litigation.

The news comes as top UK firm Lovells officially completed its tie-in with Washington based firm Hogan & Hartson this week.

Hogan Lovells, the new firm, will house over 2,500 lawyers and is expected to pull in a combined revenue of $1.9bn (£1.2bn) a year.

Co-chief executives Warren Gorrell and David Harris said: “The creation of the firm is a direct response to the more complex and integrated global economic environment. Hogan Lovells presents a compelling proposition to our clients and the market.”