Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

There’s a new twist on MA activity in Jersey Law firms are now the subject of acquisitions

David Garber, president of Princeton Legal Search Group says law firm mergers are happening at a record pace.-(PHOTO BY AARON HOUSTON)

There was a four-week span in the fall in which New Jersey saw law firm acquisitions at the rate of one each week. This followed two significant acquisitions earlier in the year.

Such a flurry of activity is unusual in New Jersey. This year’s total already is more than the amount of law firm acquisitions from the past two years combined.

In fact, it already is above the total from each of at least the past eight years.

But if you ask David Garber, the head of a company that works with law firms that are actively looking to make moves, this type of activity may become the norm.

Garber, president of Princeton Legal Search Group, attested to certain shifts in the industry that have made acquiring practices and partners more common than bringing fresh attorneys up the ranks.

“(Attorneys would) spend a lot of time proving themselves before becoming a partner,” he said. “It happens less and less that way now. Growth for law firms increasingly is a result of lateral acquisitions.”

Procuring attorneys that are already heavily specialized experts — instead of spending time and resources trying to create them — is one of the most obvious drivers for these acquisitions.

Comprehensive changes such as the Affordable Care Act have generated entirely new areas of legal expertise virtually overnight. In the same way, future shifts — such as to the state’s environmental regulatory scheme — could just as quickly alter demand for specialized lawyers.

Two recent acquisitions by Newark-based McCarter & English, one of the state’s largest firms, reflect an industry-wide effort to stay a step ahead of developing legal spaces.

The largest — and, thus far, the year’s most sizable acquisition in the state —was its October partnership with the 17-lawyer SorinRand of East Brunswick. The other was in February, when it absorbed the 14-lawyer Miller, Balis & O’Neil of Washington D.C.

The tech-focused SorinRand and the energy law firm Miller, Balis &O’Neil were folded into the 122 lateral partners McCarter & English has integrated in the past seven years.

Brett Johnson

NJBIZ Business Events

2023 NJBIZ Leaders in Digital Technology

Thursday, March 30, 2023
2023 NJBIZ Leaders in Digital Technology

NJBIZ Leaders in Finance 2023

Tuesday, April 25, 2023
NJBIZ Leaders in Finance 2023

NJBIZ Leaders in Law 2023

Thursday, May 25, 2023
NJBIZ Leaders in Law 2023