Jonson Beaumont Core-Specialists in law firm merger integration

Mergers are an increasingly popular option to succeed in the changing legal climate where standing still is not an option.  We understand that there are differing drivers for going into a merger according to circumstances.  There is no “one size fits all” template to a successful merger because every firm is different, each with their own complexities and different stakeholders.

How many law firm mergers in recent years can be regarded as successful?  Those who believe that they have been often obfuscate the truth. We know those that are not, Dewey & Le Boeuf 2012, King Wood Mallesons European arm 2017, Ince & Co 2018.  There are success stories, but far too many are poorly managed, so value is destroyed, and talent lost.

Of course, you may have the expertise in both firms and you may be able to do it yourself – but we are offering a unique service of highly experienced specialists as melding two cultures and structures is rarely easy. Do not underestimate the inevitable difficulties and period of destabilisation that accompanies a merger. Many lawyers and support staff simply do not like change and a merger brings huge change with new colleagues, changed responsibilities, a change in offices involving new systems and processes. To be successful any merger requires a very significant investment of management time.

Integration will give rise to some tough questions so you must deal with them before day one of the merger. Leadership, decision making processes and identifying “where the buck stops” on both legal and administrative issues are crucial to success. When two firms merge, what will be the management structure, how will management decisions be taken and how will the merged firm be perceived by current and new clients as well as your staff? Importantly, who will lead you to a successful outcome through this exceptional change? This is our forte, this is what we do.

Your merger strategy needs to be grounded in planning so that from “day one” of the merger you have a completely clear view of what the newly merged firm will look like, so every stakeholder has clarity as to what is happening, thereby removing uncertainty which is potentially one of the most destabilising factors in a new merger.

The “back office” is one of the potentially major pitfalls in a merger and many such transactions have foundered on not giving this area enough attention.  Merging systems and processes impacts every area of the business, covering client intake, conflict checking and acceptance, finance and accounting, HR, technology and security, compliance, marketing and BD and knowledge management.

Another major challenge (and occasionally obstacle) to a merger is that of property.   What is the lease situation, how much space is needed, what is the preferred location(s) and which teams and individuals need to be relocated?

Then there is the key issue of communication both internally and externally, which must be clear, concise, and timely. It must start early in the process, be frequent and continue until after well after the merger takes place. Fear leads to poor integration and staff disenchantment so you must foster an environment where everyone can feel empowered to ask questions, express their concerns and frustrations and criticisms, and suggest solutions. Clients must be included in your communication so they know the value the merged firm will bring to them.

For two firms to really become one you need one playbook, one set of rules, one set of values, standards, and expectations. Take time to develop it and have it ready early in the process because from day one of the integration it must be in place.

A new culture arising from the merger needs frequent personal interaction so individuals can get to know their new colleagues, understand them, and trust them. There will be challenges and you must address them.

Mergers can and do fail but we have insights that benefit you because our Core team has extensive practical operational planning and implementation experience of mergers and the pitfalls that you can avoid. We bring clarity so you know what should be in place from day one and will add value with defined transparent costing as part of your merger process.

Understanding respective cultures can help you identify the strengths of each organisation and can help you prepare for and predict future challenges. Establishing a detailed project plan and an integration team early in the process that is aware of inherent risks will save you from:

  • Confusion within the business
  • Management distraction
  • A reluctance to share information
  • A simple unwillingness to follow a methodical decision timeline.

We will help you:

  • Lead the merger integration process
  • Create a detailed template as to the look and feel of the newly merged firm. Good planning is the key to merger success
  • Project manage the merger integration process
  • Plan – set targets from the start to help re-enforce and clarify your strategic intent and set financial benchmarks that can be tracked
  • Prioritise
  • Have clear communication – early and often
  • Actively engage with everyone involved
  • Plan cultural change management
  • Set a vision, align leadership, and hold substantive events to give employees a chance to participate
  • Connect your cultural plan to your business goals.
  • Deliver a successfully integrated firm.