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Law Firm Mergers and What They Mean for Attorneys

Law Firm Mergers and What They Mean for Attorneys

Since the 2008 recession, the legal market has gone through significant changes, some of which are still occurring.  Firms continue to stumble and fall as they expand their services in some areas and pare down their services in others.  As the overall US legal market (and California, specifically) changes even more rapidly in the face of quickly-changing legal norms and an explosive tech services industry, it seems likely that — in the future — many seemingly vibrant firms will collapse and be forced to merge with others in an effort to stay relevant.

Though clever attorneys can survive and even thrive in the wake of a merger, it is not a certainty, and there are a number of arbitrary factors that can influence one’s success following a merger.  In many cases, the best decision following a merger may be to explore other opportunities on the market and to make a transition to a less-murky position with a different firm.

Curious about what a law firm merger can mean for the affected attorneys at the firm?  Let’s go through some of the potential impacts.  Consider the following.

Practice Group Makeup is Likely to Be Affected

Law firm mergers may lead to significant changes to the makeup of various practice groups, particularly if both firms have personnel overlap.  Some practice groups may be pared down substantially, while others may be expanded to prepare for a targeted growth strategy.  When a practice group is being altered, there may be changes to the leadership hierarchy that can have real day-to-day impacts on how you engage with clients and your projects.  A post-merger firm can be disorganized for some time as it attempts to integrate both firms, which can lead to frustration for those in the affected practice groups.

Work Culture May Change

Work culture is among the most vulnerable aspects of a firm in the wake of a merger, as a positive work culture is a fragile thing that must be tended to carefully — not wholly unlike a garden.  The paring down of valuable associates, legal assistants, paralegals, and partners can cause enormous shifts in culture, in part due to the fact that this attrition is not typically done in a “gradual” manner, but happens in short and sudden bursts.  This can prevent the remaining firm workforce from maintaining the previous culture.

Partner and Management Opportunities May Be Limited

Management of the firm can change drastically in the wake of a merger, as practice groups are stripped and others are expanded.  Top firm leadership may change, and expectations/process for client acquisition might also be changed.  Given these expected differences, management and partner opportunities can feel simultaneously “squeezed” and “open.”  There may be opportunities in areas for which you are not experienced (while opportunities in your target area are closing off).  Further, the chaos in the post-merger might lead to delays and inconsistency in how the firm evaluates talent for upwards growth.

Continued Uncertainty Could Stifle Career Growth

Generally speaking, despite their best efforts, the post-merger firm can be a messy and chaotic environment.  Even if the day-to-day activities of the firm continue relatively smoothly, one’s career opportunities are likely to be affected — uncertainty about practice group leadership structure, management opportunities, and client acquisition processes, among other issues, can slow down career growth of ambitious associates and partners, even if they are not forced out.  If even a year of your work life would be impacted by this uncertainty, then it may be sensible to switch firms so that your contributions are “seen” and rewarded appropriately.

Contact Garb Jaffe & Associates for Recruitment Help

Is your firm merging with another?  Firm mergers are increasingly common in the post-2008 legal industry, and can have a substantial impact on the careers of associates and partners in both organizations.  Many attorneys do not quite understand — and rightfully so — how a merger is likely to affect their ability to grow their career.  We can help.

Here at Garb Jaffe & Associates, our team of Los Angeles legal recruiters boasts decades of experience guiding attorneys through the recruitment process, helping them secure ideal positions with target firms.  Over the years, we have helped hundreds of transitioning attorneys settle in at prestigious Biglaw firms and in-house legal departments throughout the state of California.  It is our belief that by engaging with clients in a “collaborative partnership” from the beginning of the recruitment process (and learning their goals and concerns), we can more effectively represent their interests.

If you’d like to speak to a member of our team and learn more about what our legal recruiters can do to assist you, call us at 310-207-0727 or send us a message online.

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