There was news this week that Bryan Cave and Holme Roberts & Owen were “merging.”
However, it looks like the 900 lawyer Bryan Cave is really acquiring the smaller Holme Roberts, which has 175 lawyers or so. A sign that this really isn’t a “merger” is that two of the offices of Bryan Cave’s target will be known as “Bryan Cave HRO” for 18 months.
It’s interesting that this deal involves a firm based in St. Louis (Bryan Cave) and Denver (Holme Roberts), while the merger earlier this year of Faegre & Benson and Baker & Daniels involved firms based in Minneapolis and Indianapolis, respectively.
So while we are seeing legal M&A in the fly-over parts of the US, what about firms on the East or West coasts? Part of the answer for the lack of similar deals there may be that the larger firms based in the money centers already have a presence in key areas of the US or are looking internationally for growth.
The press release for the Bryan Cave HRO deal contains this note about its rationale from the latter’s managing partner:
It was clear to us from the beginning that Bryan Cave and HRO share common values, including a passion for building long-term relationships with clients. This combination allows for the unbroken continuity of those professional relationships while also permitting us to offer a wider array of legal services to existing and new clients. We look forward to serving Bryan Caveâ€™s existing client base in our home markets.â€
To grow, all large law firms need to offer more services to an expanding client base. I define that as organic growth. Acquiring a firm can be a smart strategic move. But it is not the same as organic growth. That is increasingly rare, due in part to the cost control and quality gauntlets that most general counsel have thrown down.
In this new legal world, law firms have to re-earn the work every month.
All that said, a tip of the Wired GC cap to Bryan Cave for stepping up and showing optimism at a time when many firms are retrenching. And good wishes to the attorneys at Holme Roberts & Owen; hopefully being HRO will be A-OK.