Risk Update

Mega Mergers, Mega Firms — Mega Risk? Mega Conflicts? Mega Opportunity?

The Rise of the Mega Firm: Legal Departments Face Difficult Questions Amid Law Firm Mergers” —

  • “Cameron Findlay, general counsel of global food processing and commodities trading company Archer Daniels Midland Co., says it seems like a near-weekly occurrence that one of his outside law firms calls to announce a forthcoming merger with another firm or to say that they’re considering a merger.”
  • “Law firm mergers have double-edged consequences for legal departments. Mega firms have deeper benches and a broader geographic reach. But consolidation can breed conflict, lead to billing rate hikes and shrink the pool of firms for legal departments to choose from when considering outside counsel.”
  • “‘In terms of the benefits to in-house counsel, for a big multinational company like ADM, I have to admit that it’s nice to know that our principal firms can handle a broader array of matters in a broad array of geographies,’ Findlay says. ‘It is kind of nice to call up if you have an investigation that crosses national boundaries, and say, ‘Can you handle it without hiring other firms in other countries?’'”
  • “But, he adds, ‘I’ve had at least a couple questions that have arisen … because law firms have merged with firms with which we’ve had disputes in the past. And so we’ve had to work through those sorts of things.'”
  • “Another more common type of conflict arises when firms that represent competitors merge, notes Jason Winmill, managing partner at Boston-based legal department consulting firm Argopoint.”
  • “‘It’s not just that they were mean to us or nasty to us in another matter,’ Winmill says. ‘Law firms often work on one side of the street or the other. In-house counsel are looking for the merged firm to demonstrate that the side of the street they want to be on in the future is their side of the street.’
  • “…Faegre Drinker co-chair, Andrew Kassner, notes that the two firms and their clients were ‘incredibly compatible,’ which resulted in “few real conflicts.’ He adds that the clients were ‘impressed with the overwhelming business case’ for the merger.”
  • “For legal departments that are unhappy with a firm in the wake of a merger, the choice of staying or leaving can be difficult. Especially if the legal department and firm are in the middle of litigation or a project. In that common scenario, companies grapple with the tough decision of remaining in an unsatisfactory relationship or dealing with a service disruption.”